The Peebles department store moniker will disappear from most localities across Virginia next year.

The retailer, which traces its roots to its first store in Lawrenceville in 1891, plans to convert 30 of its 34 Virginia stores to the off-price Gordmans concept in the spring of 2020.

That includes three Peebles locations in the Richmond area - in Ashland, Hopewell and Colonial Heights. 

Both Peebles and Gordmans are units of Houston-based Stage Stores Inc.

Stage Stores said it has been converting a number of its Peebles locations to the Gordmans banner because consumers have responded positively to off-price offerings at Gordmans.

"Gordmans is an off-price retailer, which means that it has a wide array of merchandise for the entire family at the lowest possible prices compared to department stores," said Blakeley Graham, manager of brand publicity at Stage Stores.

Stage Stores announced plans last month to convert an additional 100 stores to Gordmans brand in 2020, bringing the total number of conversions next year to 250.

It expects to convert 89 Peebles stores to Gordmans this year: It already has switched 37 stores in March and 35 stores in June and plans to redo 17 locations in September.

The company should operate 158 Gordmans stores by the end of the year. If all the format switches take place next year, the company will have 408 Gordmans locations.

"We continue to be thrilled with the results of our 46 off-price conversion stores, including the 37 stores completed in March 2019," Michael Glazer, Stage Stores' president and chief executive officer, said in the company's first quarter earnings announcement in May.

"Notably, sales in the small Midwest market stores, which make up the majority of our off-price conversions, more than doubled in the first quarter versus the prior year sales," he said. "Additionally, our home expansion strategy was fully rolled out to department stores by the end of March and performance exceeded our expectations.”

Glazer said the company is pleased with the results of its strategy to pivot from a department store retailer that was overly dependent on apparel to a chain that "provides our guests with greater value, a broader assortment of merchandise categories, and the shopping experience that she is seeking." 

The chain, he said, has reached a critical mass of off-price stores that are providing a significant positive impact to the results at Stage Stores. "Importantly, the smaller market stores that converted in 2018 are now approaching their one-year anniversary as Gordmans and continue to deliver sales that are approximately double their volume as department stores," Glazer said last month in announcing that more stores will be converted.

The three Richmond-area Peebles locations have started store closing sales in advance of the switchover, a company representative said.

Those closing sales will continue until just before the stores are converted in the spring. The Peebles stores will close in the days leading up to the Gordmans grand openings.

The switchover from Peebles to Gordmans takes less than two weeks, the company said. 

All current Peebles employees will be offered jobs at Gordmans, the company said. But additional workers also will be hired early next year.

The Peebles stores to be converted in Virginia are in Altavista, Appomattox, Ashland, Bedford, Blackstone, Colonial Heights, Covington, Emporia, Front Royal, Hampton, Hayes, Hopewell, Kilmarnock, King George, Luray, Lexington, Louisa, Manassas, Norfolk, Onley, Pulaski, Rocky Mount, Smithfield, South Hill, Tappahannock, Vansant, Warrenton, Waynesboro, Wise and Woodstock. There also are plans to convert the Goody’s locations in Wytheville and South Boston to Gordmans.

Peebles was founded in 1891 by William Smith Peebles, who opened his first store in Lawrenceville.

The family sold the company in 1986 for $85 million to two investment banking firms and to Peebles' senior management. It had been sold twice before Stage Stores acquired Peebles in 2003 when it was based in South Hill. At the time, Peebles had more than 125 stores primarily in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern and Midwest states.

Stage Stores operates 645 stores under the names of Stage, Bealls, Goody's, Peebles and Palais Royal in 42 states and 141 Gordmans stores primarily in Midwestern states.

The company acquired selected assets of the Gordmans chain in April 2017 through a bankruptcy auction.

As an off-price retailer, Gordmans offers a new merchandise arriving weekly. "There will always be something new to discover when it comes to popular name brand apparel, home décor, footwear, gifts, accessories, fragrances and more for the whole family," Graham said.
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