The catalog firm specializing in heavy-duty workwear gets a Minnesota foothold.
It’s about time. Duluth Trading Co., the Internet and catalog work-apparel retailer, is finally landing a bricks-and-mortar location in Minnesota, although not in Duluth.
The company launched there in 1989, but it has never had a retail location in Minnesota until Monday, when it opens a store in Bloomington at 9801 Lyndale Av. S.
It will be the company’s largest store in size and its first to sell the complete line of men’s and women’s merchandise displayed in the catalog and online, said Duluth Trading’s president, Stephanie Pugliese. “It’s about bringing the brand experience to life,” she said.
Dave Walbridge, a West St. Paul man who has purchased online from the company, said he looks forward to checking out the goods in person. “I like their style, the heavy-duty quality, and the company’s sense of humor,” he said. As a stagehand who hauls cables, lights, and sound equipment, he appreciates the way they make jeans comfortable and functional. “They also cater to a larger guy with sizes of 3X or more,” he said.
About 30 percent of the 14,000-square-foot store is devoted to women’s clothing and the remainder to men and unisex accessories such as camping and travel gear and tools.
The store’s displays show off its irreverence. Men’s “ballroom” jeans are said to allow guys to “crouch without the ouch.” Long-tail T-shirts “prevent plumber’s butt.” An office staple is dubbed “Middle Management chinos” and said to offer “sweet relief.”
Duluth Trading has smaller stores in three Wisconsin towns: Mount Horeb, Port Washington and an outlet in Belleville. This will be the first full-price store to stock clearance merchandise. Both the men’s and women’s departments have small clearance sections at the back of the store.
The privately held company has seen double-digit growth in each of the last five years and expects the same in 2013, according to Pugliese. She attributes much of its success to being responsive to customers’ needs. The company even asked some of its Twin Cities customers about potential store locations. The Bloomington spot, a former Burger Brothers, was one of the most popular.
Duluth also scours customer comments online and uses local consumer panels to test products. Customers can also return catalog and online orders at the store and place new orders online in the store and avoid shipping costs, store manager Mark Pickart said.
One customer request the company is responding to is for more products made in the U.S. Currently, 20 percent of the goods are American-made.
“We are always looking to find new high-quality vendors to work with,” Pugliese said. Many of the men’s work boots, leather belts and some of the ballroom jeans are made domestically.
And what about a store in its namesake city? Pugliese said she considers the Bloomington store a testing ground for additional stores in Minnesota.
“The Twin Cities is a great market for us with more than 50,000 catalog customers, but we only open stores when we can guarantee them a great experience,” she said.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633