The Lands’ End Brand Plan: Insanity or Genius?

Discussion
Dec 11, 2006

By George Anderson


Shopping for a winter coat or cashmere sweater for the holidays? Would you like that monogrammed? How about getting Peppermint Crunch chocolate wafers, a Panasonic 42″ Plasma Television, a China Pearl Necklace, a NordicTrack Audio Strider or a Cool Blue Dog Squall for that special person or pet in your life?


If you wish to buy any of the above then check out your most recent Lands’ End catalog or go to www.landsend.com/gifts. There, you’ll find a lot of items that you probably wouldn’t associate with the retailer that has made its brand name selling preppy clothing and home furnishings.


David McCreight, president of Lands’ End, recently told the Wisconsin State Journal that the retailer is looking to create “a one-stop shopping experience” for its customers.


Mr. McCreight is a believer in Lands’ End strategy to branch out beyond its core business. Others see the move as necessary while others seen it as brand suicide.


Count George Rosenbaum, chairman of Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, as one of those who see Lands’ End new direction going in the wrong direction.


“I think it probably reflects some rather incompetent meddling on the part of Sears,” he said. “To attempt to extend the Lands’ End brand name to toys and plasma TV, I think, is very risky, in terms of degrading its value as an apparel brand.”


Howard Davidowitz believes that selling Crafstman tools, an iBeanbag chair wired for iPods, and cashmere water bottle covers is necessary for Lands’ End to remain relevant in the consumer marketplace.


“Lands’ End is a great brand, but nothing is forever. Any brand has to continually move to the next level,” Mr. Davidowitz said.


Mr. McCreight said Lands’ End’s new direction a result of “talking to customers, trying to surprise and delight them.” He added, “We’re trying to bring the customer even closer to the company.”


Lands’ End is looking to create that closeness by being more accessible to consumers. The company is moving beyond its catalogs, web site, company and outlet stores to branded departments within select Sears’ locations as well as placing kiosks in stores.


It is also looking to personalize the shopper experience by expanding monogramming. Lands’ End has moved beyond simple initials embroidered on a shirt or other garment by, as an example, placing children’s artwork on tote bags.


“If you listen to your customers and have your customers’ best interests at heart, you’re bound to be successful,” said Mr. McCreight. “I plan to not only maintain that focus but further it.”


Listening to its customers is what led to Lands’ End developing its newest line of clothing — women’s intimate apparel. “Customers were saying, ‘you fit me so well in (swimsuits), would you help me in intimate (apparel)?’,” he said.


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18 Comments on "The Lands’ End Brand Plan: Insanity or Genius?"


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Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Lands’ End is doing the right thing. Many of my panelists are too quick (IMHO) to silo Lands’ End as just a clothing retailer. Today’s successful retailers have all extended their presence to other products, recognizing that their customer is the same one that purchases these products in other places. One of the things which has made LE distinctive has been their warranty, ability to merchandise, and the value that they bring to their competitive landscape. How they continue doing this with other branded products will determine their future success. If they can continue to offer a unique channel, with standards that exceed their customer’s expectations in customer service and product reliability, they will be successful. Otherwise, they will stall and fail. It is the follow-through with their channels and customers which makes LE the success it is today.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
15 years 5 months ago

The day they were purchased by Sears was “the day the music died” for Lands’ End. End of brand, at least end of the quality, targeted, upscale brand they were…end of story.

MARK DECKARD
Guest
MARK DECKARD
15 years 5 months ago

I like it.

I received the catalog and have to admit, it held my attention. It was nice to see a few new surprises other than the 2006 version of the last 10 years of polos & fleece.

It’s all in the mix. I think they can pull it off with smart merchandising and unique findings. They’ll screw it up if the product additions are just “me too” offerings broadly found elsewhere.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
15 years 5 months ago

Change is essential to stay relevant, so Lands’ End does need to change. However, trying to morph into a general retailer does not seem to be the way for Lands’ End to go. Not every retailer can or should be everything to everyone. Lands’ End probably would do much better by defining its lifestyle brand and building on it. While some of the extra items may be higher margin, they really subtract in the long run from what the brand means. Lands’ End seems to be moving towards the point of meaning nothing to anyone because they tried to be something to everyone.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
Carol Spieckerman
15 years 5 months ago

With its new strategy, Lands’ End is simply doing what every loyalist power brand worth its name recognition salt has already been doing: becoming a true “lifestyle” brand (which should go down in history as the brand buzzword for 2006). From that perspective, LE is actually behind the curve and should be applauded for waking up and smelling the opportunity. No worries about stepping out into unprecedented waters though. They can simply pick and choose winning ideas from many who have gone before: Eddie Bauer, Jeep, Aeropostale, Juicy Couture, Napapirji, Nautica, Baby Phat, Vuitton, Gucci….

Tonya Hamilton
Guest
Tonya Hamilton
15 years 5 months ago

This discussion really isn’t about Lands’ End; it’s about Sears. They have purchased Lands’ End and obviously believe that LE offers not only quality merchandise but another distribution method for Sears’ own products. However, Lands’ End didn’t get to be as successful as it has been by selling plasma televisions.

It’s clear that Lands’ End needs to stick to its strength: clothing, luggage, related preppy attire. However, Sears is in serious need of finding its core. Rather than purchase and then disembowel a strong brand like Lands’ End, Sears should take a step back and find its own strengths to capitalize on.

Karen McNeely
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I think Kai said almost everything I was thinking better than I could myself.

The only thing that I would add is that I don’t think it is fair to compare this move to the merchandising of Lands’ End in Sears. In my viewpoint, the problem there is that the demographics of the Sears customer didn’t match the Lands’ End demographics. I think in this case the demographics do match and if they can execute with quality, this should be a winner.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
Bill Ford recently said that his customers told him that they are “building cars that people want to buy.” Now, depending upon your perspective, you could interpret that differently. If you have shifted, like so many, to a completely different brand long ago with no intention of looking back, you might chuckle. Some, however, do agree with Mr. Ford since they still do sell millions of them (just not as many as before). The same holds true for Lands’ End. Some are still buying. The question is, will their consumer base that has already diminished, buy more and different things? Or, are they potentially, like Mr. Ford’s past consumers, longing for a better day? For myself, I made the shift to L.L.Bean some time ago. Why? Well, it’s sort of like my dream of owning a Jag or a Volvo. Both went away when Ford bought them. When Sears bought LE, and for no reason other than that, I sought an alternative. Why? Perception. LE had never done anything wrong, in fact they had been… Read more »
jeanne bliss
Guest
jeanne bliss
15 years 5 months ago

Lands’ End built its emotional base with customers through understanding who they were as people and catering to their clothing needs in a personal and informative way. I was there, reporting to founder Gary Comer during this period in the 80’s – and it is sad to see the erosion of this great brand.

Gary used to tell us “think small, big will take care of itself. Treat each customer as if they were the most important person.” This served us well and would continue to serve Lands’ End well today if they focused more on service and customer experience in their core of clothing versus selling bells and whistles, and phones and air conditioners and, well, the kitchen sink.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I couldn’t respond to the poll question because there was no “get divested” option….

…But one observation on the “our consumer’s are telling us” comment. There is a “forest and the trees” aspect to consumer research that is difficult to see (yes, pun intended). If we look closely enough and ask the questions correctly, we can get some of our consumers to tell us just about anything we want them to. This does not result from malicious intent or poor research practice. Rather, it is human nature to follow the threads that appeal to us and to hear the things that fit our own paradigms and support our own ideas.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
15 years 5 months ago
No question that Lands’ End’s offer is being tinkered with by Sears and it is no surprise that their new president, David McCreight hailing from Smith & Hawken — an upscale chain that doesn’t sell apparel — is tasked to leverage the Lands’ End brand in a revenue generating way. I can’t imagine any other reason you would bring in an executive from outside the apparel industry to run a “dyed in the wool” apparel catalog retailer. Will it work? Well, Sears wasn’t too successful at launching Lands’ End Departments within their stores and while they attempted to integrate this concept, they took their eyes off the cash generating portion of the acquisition — the successful catalog customer. I spoke with Lands’ End employees during and after the purchase in order to track the impact of the acquisition to their core business. Folks on the inside didn’t paint a pretty picture, with both morale and execution falling considerably over the first couple of years. Mistakes in catalog printing and product offers combined to drive morale… Read more »
Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
15 years 5 months ago

Extending its product lines to electronics and other unrelated lines is going too far. If a consumer wants to buy electronics they’ll go to Best Buy or Circuit City, not Lands’ End. Consumers are already inundated with too many ads and promotions and many are about to cry out “enough.” When will some retailers understand that strategic product extensions, not greedy extensions are what consumers want.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

A winning retail strategy: be dominant in the categories you enter. A losing retail strategy: one stop shopping. No American wants to buy everything in one place. Everyone knows that no one place can be the best place for everything. Lands’ End is great for preppy clothing. Maybe they can be great in related clothing. Trying to be great in consumer electronics? Why not sell cars or burgers or lawn care services? Preppies buy those too. Best thing about free enterprise: any retailer is free to embarrass themselves.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 5 months ago

The further they move away from their roots of high-quality clothing and the equity they’ve built up with their customer base the more they have to lose. It appears they’re working to make their website nothing more than an alternative to Amazon.com and when they do the consumer will no longer know what it is they stand for and their brand will no longer be the brand of choice that they’ve worked so hard to create.

Dick Seesel
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Mr. Davidowitz’s comment that “nothing is forever” certainly will apply to Lands’ End, the longer they pursue this misguided strategy. It’s one thing to develop product and line extensions that are true to the brand; intimate apparel, for example, makes perfect sense if the design is appropriate to the target customer rather than imitation-Victoria’s Secret. It’s another thing entirely to muddle the brand image with irrelevant product and clashing brands (such as Craftsman), and turning the business into a “bunch of stuff.”

This looks like somebody’s idea of corporate synergy: How to leverage the investment in Lands’ End by driving sales of Sears merchandise in an inappropriate channel. Short-term, this may please investors in Sears Holdings, long-term it’s a great way to kill a respected brand with a well-defined image.

George Andrews
Guest
George Andrews
15 years 5 months ago

I have to vote brand suicide based on initial concept and perhaps not fairly, forecasting results based on Sears/Lands’ End’s execution so far. Some mentioned lifestyle brands. Neither TVs nor pearls seem to build a casual/preppy lifestyle retail stop, or their own brand. Why not have Lands’ End treadmills instead of Nordic Track exercisers that can be bought at Nordic shops? There are so many other categories, with even more room for expansion, that would be a better tie in to their lifestyle — pets, camping, accessories for Jeeps and SUVs, hiking, messenger bags, an organic clothing section, and so on — that would reinforce their brand versus possibly “muddying the water.”

Anne O'Neill
Guest
Anne O'Neill
15 years 5 months ago

Let’s see….We can now buy Craftsman at Sears, K-Mart and LE? It seems like one big melting pot. It looks like all the stores are headed for one, and I mean singular, name change. If all the companies share the same merchandise then what is the point of having 3 seperately named stores?

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Another solid brand is destined to become just another footnote. Rather than succumb to an operationally ‘easy’ rationale that will dramatically dilute the LE brand, the leadership should be working on creative insights to further develop the LE brand and not forget what ‘brought them to the dance’ in the first place.

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