Digital progress for Lands End, but land’s end not yet in sight for US heritage brand

SUMMARY:

Lands End CEO Jerome Griffith can see signs of the retailer’s shift to digital paying off, but there’s still a long way to go to turn around the brand.

As he approaches the end of his first year in the CEO seat, Jerome Griffith reckons that he’s seeing signs of a turnaround at US retailer Lands End that will take stronger hold in 2018:

I believe that we are uniquely positioned as a highly recognized American heritage brand operating in the heartland of the country, representing strong family values and offering a great value proposition. I am more optimistic than even about the opportunity ahead of us as we fully capitalize on our Lands End strong heritage and leverage the excellent team that we have in place.

That emphasis on homeland and heartland is a marked contrast to his predecessor Federica Marchionni, whose Dolce & Gabbana background was a flawed attempt to take Lands End upmarket and add some high-end retail glamour. It’s also, sadly or happily depending on your political standpoint, well-timed for the Trump-ian MAGA mindset.

So is Griffith justified in his optimism? Well, the firm just announced a 4.5% year-on-year increase in revenues, largely driven by its transition from being a catalog business to an e-commerce one. It’s still lumbered with the problem of its offline operation being too dependent on Sears Holdings, but there’s no denying that the digital focus is showing promise.

Griffith says that the driving force behind strategic decisions has to be – and will be – determiend by customer needs and preferences. That chimes with the motto of company founder Gary Comer – “Take care of the customer, take care of the employee and the rest will take care of itself.” Griffith sticks to the same theme:

Essentially it’s up to us to put the customer front and center, meet them when they are going and anticipate their needs. This will be done across the broad from our product assortments, technology choices, distribution channels and infrastructure backlog. Ultimately our customer wants to feel connected with the brand and be taken care of products that are great quality, of good value and fulfill their needs that they have in their life.

He pitches the future for Lands End as being one of a “customer-centered, multi-channel online organization”, adding:

This means we will provide customers with better and faster access to the products they want across channels, evolve our product offering to continually have a purpose for our customer and be innovators in our digital and marketing programs to enhance our customer connection.

Tech investment

So there’s a determination to become “a more digitally-led company” and that means looking out for new tech that can assist in this. Griffith says:

We are therefore embarking on a number of initiatives to become a quicker and more nimble digital company to create a better customer experience across touch points. These activities are centered on improving and optimizing the user experience across multiple device platforms, offering personalized massaging, product presentation and suggestions each time they visit our site, leveraging data to make better decisions, and improving our speed to market and speed to customer.

He adds:

We see great opportunities to leverage data analytics in order to better tailor and personalize the shopping experience for each customer. We know that they want to accomplish four things when they shop at Lands’ End – to find what they are looking for quickly and easily; to ensure that it will fit right; to discover new products; and to receive their order when they need it.

As for that Sears baggage weighing down on the offline business, this too is being addressed according to Griffith:

In this competitive retail landscape, it is key to our success to create an excellent customer experience in not only how we sell, but where we sell our products. We are testing and implementing our strategy for stand-alone Lands End stores, so that we can create the optimum environment for the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience. We are learning both from the market place and from our customers as we create a store strategy that embodies our brand, resonates well with our customers and offers a seamless multichannel experience.

Again analytics tech is coming to the fore here:

As part of our retail strategy, we are using customer analytics to help inform our decisions such as what’s important to our customer at our Lands End store and what geographic locations make the most sense for us. We expect our first location to open in the first half of 2018 and we plan to open a handful of locations throughout the year as we test our concept.

Behind the scenes, the retailer’s business infrastructure is also getting an overhaul:

We have invested in a new ERP system over the past several years, with an emphasis of process standardization and efficiency in order to reduce manual tasks and improve how we collect, store and use information. We are already benefiting from the finance and merchandising operating system that we put in place earlier this year and that are in the process of implementing additional capabilities in those areas, as well as improved inventory planning processes.

These will pave the way to roll out more strategic competencies as we work to grow the business and operate as a global multichannel player. As we look to the future, we will turn our attention to systems for improving our order management and warehouse management, as well as optimizing our logistics and transportation, which will further enable us to operate with speed.

My take

Progress undoubtedly, but land’s end is not yet in sight for Lands End. The focus on the customer experience is undoubtedly welcome, but there are still issues with the product and brand. While the pursuit of D&G glitter looks foolish in retrospect, that folly did at least acknowledge the need for a change to a rather tired looking brand. Overhauling that aspect of the business is going to be an important part of the ongoing omni-channel strategy in 2018.

NRF - 2018 - big show

Image credit - Lands End

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