[ INSIDE HAWAII INC. ]
Opening new stores is like having a child, exec says
New job: Maui Clothing Co. has promoted Niemeyer to vice president and general manager. She will be responsible for 21 retail stores throughout the islands, primarily on Maui and Oahu. She joined the Lahaina-based company in 1998 as general merchandise manager. The retailer, founded in 1982, is primarily geared to the visitor market and has about 150 employees.
Past jobs: She worked for the former Liberty House department store chain from 1983 to 1997, starting as a buyer and rising to store management in Kailua on Oahu and on Maui.
Born and raised: Born in Baltimore and raised in Virginia.
: Why did you leave Liberty House?
Answer: My husband and I decided it was time to move to the mainland. But we missed Maui too much and came back 15 months later. We went to Tucson, Ariz., first. I then went to work for the former president of Liberty House, Jim Famalette, at Gottschalks for nine months in Fresno, Calif. That's when my husband said, "Can we go now?" And that's when Ed Wayne (of Maui Clothing Co.) hired me over the phone to come back and work for him.
Q: How much has Maui Clothing Co. expanded since you joined?
A: When I came to the company I think there were nine stores. (Now there are 21.) I actually had put it all on paper because I couldn't believe what we had gone through. There was so much growth in retail space over here on Maui. We've actually closed some along the way when they've been less than stellar.
Q: How many stores did the company have at its peak?
Q: What has expansion been like?
A: I've enjoyed it because it's a new experience. It's like having another child. Each store has a different location and a different look. I always enjoy that. You never know when you start out planning what you're going to get. When you open, the characters are all different.
Q: How hard was the downturn after 9/11?
A: We've struggled through that and didn't have to make major cuts. But it was nice to come out of that after 2001. Boy, that was scary.
Q: How has the company changed in recent years, if it all?
A: We used to be just swimwear and apparel. What we've added are shoe stores and a gift store. Ed's always trying to find little niches that haven't filled by others.
Q: Crazy Shirts, Liberty House and other local retailers fell on hard times in recent years. How has your company survived?
A: I think we have a really strong core group of people. Most have been here as long as 20 years.
Q: What is happening to visitor spending habits?
A: It seems in recent months it's more of a value customer. It's a typical summer customer but we're finding the time-shares have changed the (demographics). They've been here before, they've spent their money before. They just seem to have different shopping patterns.
Q: How have you adapted?
A: In some areas we've upscaled and in others we've gone more budget.
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