- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wilsons the Leather Experts Inc. said yesterday that it plans to close 160 of its approximately 260 mall stores, eliminating about 1,000 jobs in a dramatic attempt to cut costs in a tightening economy.

The Brooklyn Park, Minn., company, which sells men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, said it will keep about 100 of its mall stores and convert them into a studio store of women’s fashion accessories. Wilsons Leather Outlet division will not be affected by the changes.

The Wilsons stores on the chopping block are expected to hold liquidation sales and close within the next three to four months. The remaining Wilsons stores are expected to be remodeled by August.

Wilsons has 10 stores and two outlet stores in the Washington area.

Wilsons did not say which stores would close and did not return a reporter’s phone call yesterday.

“The decision to take these actions, while very difficult, is the right move for the future of Wilsons Leather,” said Mike Searles, Wilsons Leather”s chief executive officer. “We expect the cost reduction initiative will enable us to reduce our working capital needs and strengthen our business, as well as provide capital for our remodel efforts to convert all remaining mall stores into our new ‘Studio’ concept.”

The year has gotten off to a slow start for most retailers as consumers, with fears of recession in mind, keep a tighter grip on their wallets.

Talbots Inc. and AnnTaylor Stores Corp. have also recently announced that they will close some stores in an attempt to cut costs. Sears Holdings Corp. said this month that it plans to cut 200 jobs.

Upscale stores have been particularly hard hit as shoppers scale down to less expensive merchants.

BELT-TIGHTENING

Wilsons the Leather Experts Inc. could close some of its 10 Washington-area retail stores.

Arlington (National Airport)

Potomac Mills Outlet (2700 Potomac Mills Circle, Dale City)

Dulles Town Center (21100 Dulles Town Circle)

Tysons Corner Center (8050 Tysons Corner Center)

Annapolis (1260 Annapolis Mall)

Westfield Montgomery (7107 Democracy Blvd.)

Bowie Town Center (15518 Emerald Way)

Mall in Columbia (10300 Little Patuxent Parkway)

St. Charles Towne Center (11110 Mall Circle)

Wheaton Plaza (11160 Veirs Mill Road)


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