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DULUTH, MN-Suffern, NY-based Dress Barn Inc. has agreed to buy Maurices Inc. based here for about $320 million. The move will allow Dress Barn to add clothing for younger woman and stores in small towns.

Privately-held Maurices, founded in 1931 as a women’s fashion store, has 464 stores in strip centers in small towns in 38 states. Maurices had annual sales of $342 million for its fiscal year ended Feb. 28.

Dress Barn says it plans to open 20 new Maurices stores during the remainder of Dress Barn’s fiscal year and about 30 to 40 locations each year over the next several years. Known as a small town specialty store, Maurices says it offers a broad assortment of fashionable, high quality apparel and accessories to women and men, typically 17 to 34, who seek “stylish clothing for both casual and dressy occasions.”

Maurices also says it aims to differentiate itself from its competitors by offering average prices that are below those of larger market specialty store competitors. “This is a significant milestone for Dress Barn as this acquisition will diversify our business and provide an important new vehicle to accelerate our growth,” says Elliot Jaffe, Dress Barn’s chairman.

Maurices will operate as a separate division of Dress Barn. As part of this transaction, key executives are remaining with Maurices, including Lisa Rhodes, its executive vice president and chief merchandising officer; and George Goldfarb, its senior vice president and chief financial officer. They will report to David Jaffe, president and chief executive officer of Dress Barn.

The transaction was approved by Dress Barn’s board of directors and is expected to close in January. Not including Maurices, Dress Barn has 792 stores in 45 states.

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