Le Tote on Friday said it closed on its acquisition of Lord & Taylor, and named its Chief Merchandising Officer, Ruth Hartman, to the role of president of the department store. The deal was previously said to be for 99.5 million Canadian dollars in cash (USD$75 million at the time) and a secured promissory note for $33.2 million payable in cash after two years.
Hartman has more than 30 years of retail experience, including previous executive positions at Macy's and DSW, according to a company press release.
Brian Hoke will remain as Lord & Taylor's chief merchandising officer, and Robert Wehrle will continue as senior vice president of stores. Bari Harlam, chief marketing officer at former Lord & Taylor owner HBC, and Nick Cavallaro, a corporate development executive there, are joining Le Tote's board.
Lord & Taylor's locations, the 45 or so that are left after several closings in recent years, gives Le Tote a brick-and-mortar presence for the first time — and the company has already seized the opportunity.
The first collaboration between the two launched last month, when Le Tote brought its "Rental Studio" into the Ridge Hill, New York, Lord & Taylor store. Customers there have been able to browse some of Le Tote's rental inventory and have their measurements taken by a store associate, and existing Le Tote members have been able to return their rentals. More such Rental Studio locations will "launch in the coming weeks," the company said.
In a statement, Hartman called the tie-up "groundbreaking," and said that, "By delivering data driven experiences, we'll breathe new life into the traditional retail model and put customers in the driver's seat in a way they've never been before."
Certainly traditional retail, and particularly a department store like Lord & Taylor, could use that. The model, once one of the most popular shopping destinations in the U.S., has ceded a lot of ground to discounters like off-price stores and mass merchants. It's also suffered as consumers buy less apparel and have less discretionary funds. Lord & Taylor itself in recent years was mostly seen as neglected by parent HBC, which eyed its value through its real estate, as when HBC sold its Italianate Fifth Avenue flagship to coworking company WeWork.
But digital pure-plays have also learned the benefit of brick and mortar and are set to open hundreds even as several traditional retailers have announced the biggest number of store closures in years, and counting. Even apparel rental, which along with resale has taken the market by storm recently, is poised to benefit from what stores offer, according to Le Tote CEO Rakesh Tondon.
"By pairing tradition and technology, we are erasing the lines between online and in store, renting and buying," he said in a statement. "Today, more than ever, people aren't single brand or single channel shoppers. They crave innovative, personalized experiences."