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Claire's, Vanity close this month

WORTHINGTON -- Two stores in the increasingly vacant Northland Mall will close this month, leaving 12 people out of work and shoppers without a local Claire's or Vanity store.

Claire's will close Friday, but there is no official reason known. Several inquiries made at the Claire's corporate office were not answered. According to a news release published Thursday on the Claire's Stores Inc. website, an unaudited financial report shows the company has expected net sales of $322 million in the first quarter of 2010; and sales have increased nearly 9 percent in the company's North American locations.

The local store employs five people.

The mall's Vanity store will also close May 27, putting seven employees out of work.

"The main reason is they're really concentrated in this area," explained assistant manager Brittney Williams, saying there are also stores in Mankato, Sioux Falls, S.D. and Sioux City, Iowa. "I think they're also trying to get away from a smaller mall."

She said the corporate Vanity office informed staff of the store's impending closure on April 22, though sales have actually increased in the past several months.

"The last six months, our numbers have been amazing. I think it's the team that has made the difference," she said.

"We (employees) aren't the only people upset. Lots of people come in and say 'Where are we supposed to go now?' They're quite upset, in some choice words," she said. "Now people have to drive an hour."

"We're disappointed to lose any retail options," said City Administrator Craig Clark. "Being a regional hub, the strength of our retailers is dependent on the community. The loss of one is beyond the impact just of the one store."

It's not all bad news on the city's economic development forefront, though. Clark noted the construction of a Fareway Food Store and a larger Hy-Vee Food Store, as well as progress in the city's industrial park near U.S. 59. He said business growth in the city has been consistent, but added "It's not a quick process."

"There is positive news beyond what's happening at the mall," he continued. "In an ideal world, having a mirror image of what's happening along Ryan's Road would certainly be excellent for our community."

Multiple calls to mall owner Mike Kohan were not returned.