- A curated assortment of items from Ann Inc.'s Lou & Grey line (a sub-brand of Loft) will be available in select Nordstrom locations and on Nordstrom.com beginning Aug. 13, the department store retailer told Retail Dive in an email. The brand also confirmed the tie-up.
- The move furthers Nordstrom's concerted effort to bring in a host of popular third-party brands, including upstarts like Allbirds and Reformation as well as luxury icons like Gucci and Valentino, and, most recently, home goods from Anthropologie.
- It's good news for Ann Inc. as well, considering the struggles of parent Ascena, which continues to miss on sales despite a longstanding turnaround effort throughout its portfolio.
Ann Inc., the women's apparel retailer that includes Ann Taylor and Loft as well as Lou & Grey, was already struggling when Ascena took it on three years ago. At the time, it seemed like an opportunity for both companies. But debt, including financing the Ann Inc. acquisition, plus a series of merchandising misses have slowed Ascena down, which has in turn hampered Ann Inc.'s renewal.
Despite a turnaround that has included cost cuts and merchandising revamps, second quarter net sales fell to $1.72 billion from $1.75 billion in the year-ago period, mostly from a 2% same-store sales decline. Same-store sales at its Ann Taylor brand dropped 8%, Loft fell 1%, Maurices fell 5%, Dressbarn (changed from Dress Barn in 2012) fell 12% and plus size banner Lane Bryant was flat while Catherines fell 5%. Tween girl-focused Justice provided the one bright spot, with same-store sales that rose 7%. The results reflected a loss in the quarter of $39.3 million.
"Leveraging debt to acquire its Ann Taylor and Loft line of businesses wasn't all bad for Ascena — imagine where it would be today if it was reliant on its legacy brands," Ray Hartjen, director of content marketing and public relations at RetailNext, told Retail Dive in an email earlier this year. "Revenue from Dressbarn, Lane Bryant, Catherines and the like have fallen the past few years, both top line and per store. So much so that gains in other parts of the business have been nowhere close enough to compensate."
In zeroing in on Lou & Grey, Nordstrom could help amplify an assortment that is stylish and casual, in a way that hasn't happened through the brand's shops-in-shop in Loft stores. Julie Rosen, president of Ann Taylor and Lou & Grey, told Women's Wear Daily, which first reported the partnership, that the company sees louandgrey.com as its "North Star." Rosen said the brand requested that its curated assortment be included Nordstrom's new women's flagship store — opening in Manhattan in fall of 2019.
Rosen also indicated that they would like to see the partnership with Nordstrom expand and that additional Lou & Grey standalone stores are "definitely in the cards," according to WWD.