Lands' End is approaching its final steps away from Sears stores.
The retailer known for its outdoor-influenced apparel was spun off from the struggling department store chain in 2014, and in 2018, Lands' End CEO Jerome Griffith announced the company would no longer be "relying on Sears," which housed some 180 store-within-a-store locations at the time.
In its most recent earnings results, Lands' End reported that it exited 125 Sears locations by the end of the fourth quarter. James Gooch, the company's COO and CFO, told analysts on a call regarding earnings that Lands' End remains in just 40 Sears locations, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
Those locations may be closing down, as evidenced by Griffith telling the Chicago Tribune earlier this month that the retailer is looking to exit as soon as possible.
However, Lands' End has been ramping up its own stores since the spinoff. The retailer currently operates 16 U.S. stores and has plans to open 10 to 15 additional locations by the end of the year. This aligns with Lands' End's plan to open 40 to 60 locations over the next several years.
The retailer, which began as a catalog and shifted its focus online, has also worked to expand its digital sales effort over the years. Lands' End in 2016 began selling apparel on Amazon, and now offers some of its merchandise on Walmart.com.
It's important to note that while Lands' End is making a run away from the faltering department store, Edward Lampert, who up until February served as chairman of Sears Holdings Corp's board, also holds a 64.8% stake in the company, according to an SEC filing.
The discussion forum on RetailWire asked its BrainTrust panel of retail experts the following questions:
- What do you think are the keys to Lands' End success over the past couple of years?
- What will it need to do to sustain the positive arch it is currently on?
Here are eight of the most insightful comments from the discussion. Comments have been edited by Retail Dive for length and clarity.
1. Lands' End understands the significance of both stores and digital
Art Suriano, CEO, The TSi Company: Lands' End has been successful in finding and securing a loyal audience. That's what it takes to be successful in any business. It's wise to pull out of Sears because Sears, unfortunately, remains a thing of the past. Sears no doubt helped Lands' End build identity during a time when it had a customer base, but Lands' End has successfully evolved into its own thriving business and will continue to succeed. They seem to understand the significance of maintaining a proper blend of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar. I expect Lands' End to continue to grow and remain successful.
2. Opening stores 'slowly and carefully' is key to success
Mark Ryski, Founder and CEO, HeadCount Corporation: My only question is why it took Lands' End management so long to extricate themselves from Sears. Lands' End has a following and still reasonable brand equity, notwithstanding the historical challenges it's faced. Lands' End is on the right track: 1.) get out of Sears, 2.) continue to build out its online business, including third-party marketplaces and 3.) open stores slowly and carefully — don't overbuild.
3. Attracting a new generation of shoppers remains critical
Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates: For decades Lands' End has been predictable and reliable, and famous for customer service, and that didn't change during the Sears years. The key going forward will be attracting a new generation of shoppers. It's heartening to hear that mobile shopping is spiking.
4. The company has 'stayed in step' with its core customer base
Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe: Lands' End has "stayed in its lane" from a fashion sense — which is not to be construed as "did not change styles" but rather as stayed in step with its core shopper. Fortunately for Lands' End their shopper and the online/mobile shopper have converged in the form of a pre-Millennial demographic. You know, the ones that have money to spend and will spend it to look sharp.
5. The brand promise is clear and believable
Jeff Sward, Founding Partner, Merchandising Metrics: Lands' End could have been the bedrock to Sears apparel, if that was ever even possible. It's certainly not Lands' End's fault that it didn't happen. Lands' End was the lipstick. Sears was the — well, you know. It's not the fault of the lipstick. Lands' End has a clear, obvious and believable brand promise. Solid quality. Fair value. No confusion. Applause for not getting seduced by what would have been an awkward quest for fashion.
6. No advantage to partner with Sears' remains
Neil Saunders, Managing Director, Global Data Retail: Lands' End was always one of the better offers with Sears. So much so that it often looked incongruous among the awful ranges that Sears itself put together. I see no advantage to Lands' End to partner with what remains a failing retailer. Sears brings it very little in terms of customers, demographic reach, or brand profile. Indeed, it probably damages Lands' End to be associated with Sears. As such, it is a sound strategy to move on and focus on other routes to market.
7. Adding physical stores will aid the success of Lands' End
Carol Spieckerman, President, Spieckerman Retail: Lands' End still enjoys incredible customer loyalty but other players in the sensible basics space, like Duluth Trading, are ramping up. Lands' End is smart to go the owned retail route. It's the best way to showcase its arrays of styles and colorways. For Lands' End, multiple purchases are the secret sauce and brick-and-mortar is the key ingredient.
8. Sears' approach to managing iconic brands was short-sighted
Dave Bruno, Marketing Director, Aptos: It is good to see that Lands' End survived their time spent within the Sears ecosystem. I only wonder what took them so long to make their exit. Sears' approach to managing (or mismanaging) so many iconic brands, including Lands' End (and Craftsman and Kenmore, etc.) still seems shockingly short-sighted. I am glad to see Lands' End has thrived since their separation.