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Duluth Trading gets cheeky with its new underwear store at the Mall of America

John Ewoldt, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

The prototype represents another example of Duluth Trading's aggressive growth strategy. Eighteen months ago, the chain included 34 stores. With new stores opening this week, the count has almost doubled to 60. That's led some analysts to question the wisdom of such rapid growth. In fiscal 2018, the company's net income flattened to about the same as 2017.

The company, which originated in Minnesota 30 years ago and is now based in Belleville, Wis., was founded by brothers Bob and Dave Fierek who designed a tool organizer called the Bucket Boss. Their shop for years floated on the Lake Superior waterfront, and they never opened a brick and mortar location.

The company was sold to Fiskars in 1996 and since 2001 has been owned by Steve Schlect, who is the interim CEO after Stephanie Pugliese left earlier this year to join Under Armour.

The firm's irreverent marketing of men's underwear has been followed by only a few competitors. Underwear by Saxx now sells boxer briefs with a "ballpark pouch" and suggests on its website that a person "gift a pair" of underwear for the holidays because "you can't actually grow a pair."

For many men, underwear is no longer a three-for-$10 purchase. Manufacturers in recent years have innovated with bright colors, elaborate patterns and high-tech synthetic fabrics that reduce moisture and odor. At Duluth Trading, prices for a single pair routinely range from $20 to $30 for boxer briefs with flair and high-tech function.

 

"We're not looking to compete with Kohl's or Walmart on the basics," Schlect said. "We just want to people to have fun in our store and stay a little longer than they might otherwise."

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