Rottles women's department banks on style and service

Susan Vesser and Peggy Vertrees look to keep Rottles woman
Susan Vesser and Peggy Vertrees look to keep Rottles woman's department up to date while still retaining its traditional clientele.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Fashion trends come and go.

For 73 years, however, Rottles has been an Auburn constant, offering downtown shoppers an experience long on customer service, sky high in quality.

That's a core commitment, and it's key to the survival of a locally-owned department store in the age multi-national, big-box super chains.

Nowhere is that commitment more on display than in Rottles women's department.

There, Buyer Susan Vesser and Visual Merchandiser Peggy Vertrees work together to offer quality, boutique clothing and personalized service.

"We're everybody's best kept secret," said Vesser, a 40-year veteran of the fashion industry. "Whenever they come in, they go 'Where have you been all our lives?' We are keeping Rottles as wonderful as it's been for 73 years. We came on board to just augment that, bringing the extra, the extraordinary."

The recently redesigned women's department, with its astonishing palette of colors, seizes the eye right away and doesn't let go.

Each tastefully decorated section reflects a different color scheme. Near the checkout counter a display of handcrafted Journey Stones jewelery suggests an added touch to any outfit.

"One thing I refuse to do is drop the line on fashion," Vesser said. "We're going to keep the quality in the store that we're famous for. I'm going to keep all of our customers beautiful. We're bringing in new lines, comfy clothes, but we're still carrying "Not Your Daughter's Jeans" and the other brands we're known for. At the same time, we're bringing in some more contemporary styles as well, so it's updated and fresh.

"We never, ever want to lose the true customer that has always been Rottles' backbone, and our foundation customers are the ones we please first," Vesser said. "And now we're bringing in the edge because our base is from age 30 to more mature. And their daughters, surprisingly, we're enjoying that as well. So we're taking care of all of these different ages."

In addition to the quality of clothing it carries, Vesser said, Rottles treats customers in a way that has become all too rare in retail today.

"A customer comes in as a guest, but she leaves as our friend," Vesser said. "We want to make sure our customers have a great experience. Everyone of our ladies [sales associates] are masterful wardrobers. So when a customer comes in, they get that touch of personal attention. You don't find that anywhere you go anymore.

"Our goal every day is to make women walk out feeling more beautiful than they've ever felt," Vertrees added. "And if they can have that experience, then we've done the job."

With all the other options out there for shoppers – including the recently remodeled SuperMall, now called the Outlet Collection | Seattle – Vesser and Vertrees hope that quality merchandise and customer service entice customers to come in and check out the new women's department.

"It's an exciting time, [Outlet Collection] is bringing all these new people into Auburn," Vesser said. "And we need to connect to that. It's breathing all this air back into the life of Auburn."

Vesser added:

"I want people to know we're here," Vesser said. "If you're in Auburn, why not come over here? If someone comes in and I can't help her, I'll send her to the [Outlet Collection]. But I'm hoping that we can have this beautiful marriage of 'Hey, we're all in Auburn.' Let's all win. I am a big believer in 'the big village, love the other stores and let's take care of each other.' That's how business should work."

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