NEW YORK — Mothers Work gave birth to its 1,000th store on Tuesday, a Motherhood Maternity, in Deptford, N.J.

“I have to go to every woman,” Rebecca Matthias, president and founder, said of the milestone opening.

But a mother’s work is never done, and that is motivating Matthias, who founded the $500 million firm in 1982 as a mail-order company when she herself was pregnant. Matthias, a mother of three, now has her eyes set on a bigger prize: doubling sales to the $1 billion mark within the next five years.

“We have to be in every market if we are to grow and capture the kind of market share we want to have,” she said in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “If you aren’t in the market, you aren’t in the business.”

With a modest goal of dressing all 4 million pregnant women living in the U.S. with one of her three brands, Matthias has set her agenda to get to that goal. MW currently sees more than 2.5 million expectant mothers each year. Also, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, pregnancies are expected to grow 1 percent per year over the next five years.

Part of the company’s growth plan includes a continuation of its rapid store opening schedule, including the 100 expected to open this fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, and another 100 in 2004. With stores already in all 50 states, Matthias believes MW can add 500 to 600 stores to its fleet.

MW, based in Philadelphia, operates three brands that appeal to women of different income brackets and fashion identities. A Pea in the Pod, its luxury maternity unit, has 45 sites, including flagships on Madison Avenue and in Beverly Hills. In addition to is own designer label, customers can find designers including Anna Sui and Diane Von Furstenberg. For the more contemporary mom-to-be, Mimi Maternity offers affordable styles in its 125 units, and for those who are more price-conscious, Motherhood Maternity, the nation’s largest maternity retailer with 750 doors, offers clothing at lower prices.

MW is also looking to branch out on foreign soil. With only 15 stores in Canada, Matthias said there is plenty of room to grow in northward. In addition, she said she is thinking of expanding further abroad in the next couple of years, starting in Europe. “The rest of the world is where the U.S. was 20 years ago, disorganized, in need of maternity products and with no real leader,” she said.One of the bigger advantages of selling clothing to pregnant women is the intense relationship MW has with its customers, but that only lasts a short time. Matthias, knowing that her initial customers then go on to buy other baby-related products, is working to maintain her customers’ business after their deliveries. She is now looking at financial products, such as mortgages and insurance, by partnering with financial players such as banks.

MW recently retained The Joester Loria Group, a licensing and marking agency, to expand the MM brand beyond apparel and to bring a new sub-brand, Motherhood Baby, into baby-related categories such as diapers, strollers, baby food and apparel.

The firm recently raised its full-year earnings forecast to range between $2.63 and $2.68 a share versus the $2.50 and $2.60 it originally projected. For the fourth quarter, comps are expected to rise 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent and sales to range between $496 million and $497 million.

“Twenty years ago, young and pregnant, I started a little mail-order company out of my front closet to dress pregnant working women,” Matthias, said in a statement. “Who would have thought that it would grow to be three chains of stores, with 1,000 locations? What a country.”

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