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Leather store will wear new look

Wilsons is due for new paint, floor covering, fixtures and signs

One of Rogue Valley Mall's charter retailers is due for a facelift this spring.

Wilsons Leather, on the lower floor near Meier & Frank's Home Store, will undergo a monthlong &

36;75,000 update beginning in March.

The makeover is one of 50 to 60 planned this year by the Minneapolis, Minn.-based company, which owns 618 stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

The 1,467-square-foot space will get new paint, carpet, tile, wallpaper, signs and fixtures.

The store will remain open during the project, with much of the work going on after hours. But there still will be plenty of activity for the store's half-dozen employees to circumvent.

I'm excited but cringing at the same time, says Rose Whitt, the store's manager for two years. We're basically going to be trying to sell merchandise while people paint the walls.

It's critical to get mall work done in the late winter and spring, says John Phillips of JW Phillips Co., which manages Wilsons' construction.

Wilsons wants to be selling leather at Thanksgiving, he says. We want to be done with construction towards the fall and avoid the major sale spikes.

They dictate when and where they're going to do construction, and I work with their architects and evaluate their budget. We redraw the store if it's over budget and if they are way under, we put more into it.

Phillips says the nation's largest specialty leather apparel and accessories retailer is working on projects in Houston, Austin, Texas, Minneapolis, Carbondale, Ill., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Work in Carlsbad, Calif., Ocean City Md., and Olathe, Kan., was completed earlier this year.

In a normal year, they do 100, but this year they've cut it back to 50 or 60, Phillips says. Next year, they're looking to do more than 100 again.

The company, which became publicly traded in 1997, traces its roots back 104 years. It has seven locations in Oregon.

Nearly 80 percent of the stores (483) are in malls, with another 110 at outlet centers and 25 in airport stores. The company operated another 285 seasonal stores during the holiday season in 2002.

Wilsons' fiscal year ends Feb. 1. This past year, its sales were &

36;571.5 million, down 4.5 percent from &

36;598.2 million the prior 12-month period.

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Wilsons Leather sales associate Jill Shopp checks the racks at the Rogue Valley Mall store. The outlet will remain open during a monthlong remodel. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven