Growing Retailer

Minding the small details and staying close to their core values is a reason Von Maur department stores are doing well in a time other stores are closing.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — During a recent stroll through his company’s store at Valley West Mall, Von Maur President Jim von Maur lamented the fall of former retail giants like Younkers.

“When we see people go out of business, it’s not really the internet,” he told The Des Moines Register. “It’s because there wasn’t an exciting reason to go to the store.”

As brick-and-mortar stores across the country try to stay afloat, Von Maur has doubled down on the company’s core belief: Americans want to go out and shop.

The Iowa-based department store chain plans to open a new store in 2022 near the vacated Younkers store at Jordan Creek Town Center. It will be Jordan Creek’s first new department store since the mall opened in 2004.

Founded in Davenport in 1872, the family-owned company now has 33 stores in 15 states stretching from Kansas to New York, and Minnesota to Alabama.

Von Maur opened its second Twin Cities location at the end of 2018. A new store will open this fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with another planned for Orland Park, Illinois.

“It’s never good to see your industry in a huge flux of change, but at the same time it validates what we’re doing the whole time, which is run the store the way it’s always been done and not change so much,” von Maur said.

Des Moines-area malls took a hit after Younkers closed all four of its metro stores last summer. Merle Hay Mall lost another anchor when Sear shuttered its only remaining central Iowa store.

Across the metro, large retail spaces are unfilled and worries persist that more closures are on the horizon as national retailers consolidate locations or go out of business altogether.

While headlines point the finger at online shopping for the decline of traditional retail stores, Anne Brouwer, a senior partner at McMillan Doolittle, a retail consulting firm out of Chicago, said it’s a misconception that Amazon and other web-based retailers are killing brick-and-mortar shopping.

Her evidence: Online retailers are rapidly expanding the number of real-world storefronts they’re opening across the country.

Warby Parker, the online eyeglasses company, has opened close to 100 physical stores. Casper, an online mattress company, plans to open 200 stores in the next few years. And Glossier, the online make-up provider, is opening stores in major U.S. cities.

Consumers still want to go out and touch and see the merchandise, she said.

What has changed is shoppers’ interests and in­creased competition for con­su­mers’ dollars from en­ter­tainment venues and restaurant.

Extreme value and low-cost companies like the Dollar Store, T.J. Maxx, Five Below and Marshall’s are growing in the market, Brouwer said. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury stores like Von Maur continue to attract customers willing to spend money on high-end products.

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