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Northwest Retailer Coldwater Creek Hopes Makeover Will Pay Off

Karin Beil
File photo of a Coldwater Creek retail store.

This holiday shopping season, women's clothing retailer Coldwater Creek is trying to make it back into the black.

The Sandpoint, Idaho-based company known for its distinctively Northwest style has had years of declining sales. The company's new strategy comes straight from the pages of the catalogs that made it famous.

The Coldwater Creek store in Kennewick, Wash., is ready for winter. Sales associate Misty Lyon browses through scarves, gloves, and sweaters – so many sweaters.

“This is our holiday neutrals," she says. "We have a lot of the sparkles, but it's not in your face kind of sparkly.”

These are the sort of basics that started attracting loyal customers back when Coldwater Creek was just a catalog. The problem is, the company is just now returning to the look.

Coldwater Creek went broad and expanded quickly. It offered home goods. It created trendier clothes, pitting the company against numerous, less expensive brands, and annoying customers who didn't want to dress like their daughters.

Coldwater Creek chief of marketing Deb Cavanagh says the company is now trying to reclaim its niche.

“Our target customer, we've defined as the 'New 50,' she says. "And she's frankly, largely ignored.”

Coldwater Creek has revamped its website and is offering more rewards to return customers. But it has yet to be seen if the strategy will work. Earlier this fall, the company announced it would lay off 80 workers as part of an effort to cut $20 million from its budget. Quarterly sales keep dropping. It’s closing 45 stores. And there's been talk of selling the company.

But one thing Coldwater Creek has going for it is long-time shoppers like Julie Murphy, of Pasco.

“I am looking for something -- something to wear over the holidays that will make me feel beautiful,” she says.

Murphy is pulling for the company. She got one of her favorite sweaters here.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.