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May Department Stores targets younger, more casual customer

Houston — With an eye on a younger consumer, The May Department Stores Co. will open eight lifestyle prototype stores within the next 30 months as part of several key initiatives to modernize the merchandise and environment across its divisions and drive sales.

At its annual meeting here this morning, Gene Kahn, chairman and ceo, said the 19-to-44-year-old consumer group is an attractive one for the department store retailer and that the company's focus on this group will result in a clarity of merchandise that is more casual in a more enjoyable shopping experience.

"A casual and relaxed lifestyle is the cornerstone of merchandise growth," he said.

In the past, May focused on a more tailored and dressy look, but a more modern feel will infuse all merchandise categories in the future.

In addition, private label will be a key focus. "Proprietary product is one of our key initiatives," Kahn said. "It adds distinction and value." For instance, May will bow three new apparel brands this fall. And, after the meeting, Kahn said that the home area, which currently has a low penetration of private label merchandise, will see an increase in PL brands in the future.

"We do our own beach towel and flannel program, but besides that, very little," he noted.

After the meeting, Kahn also discussed May's new 140,000-square-foot prototype. Three are slated to open this year: a Robinsons-May in Orange County, CA; a Hecht's store in Greensboro, NC; and a Filene's store in Leominster, MA, a suburb of Boston.

May is committed to eight such stores so far, though Kahn said he would like to have a dozen.

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