- Lands’ End’s baby boomer shoppers are some of the most loyal of any brand, but they’re aging.
- Sales fell as the company tried to lure millennials with a switch to party dresses and heels in 2015.
- In recent years, Lands’ End has made a concerted effort to reach the often-overlooked Generation X buyers.
Lands’ End, once America’s largest mail order clothing company, has built spectacular customer loyalty with its range of sensible swimwear, cozy parkas and mom jeans.
But while the Wisconsin-based company looks to expand its reach, it has its sights set on a demographic that retailers have little love for: Generation X.
The average Lands’ End buyer stays with the brand for 18 years, outgoing CEO Jerome Griffith said at the annual ICR conference in early January, and that’s a trait the company hopes to replicate with new customers as well.
“Our client is — actually, she’s a great woman,” Griffith said, according to a recording and transcript of AlphaSense. “She’s a baby boomer. She’s in her mid-50s. She lives in a suburb. She works. She is frugal. She has a pretty decent household income, well over $100,000 a year. She has children at home – or had children at home – and she shops for the whole family. She is the one who makes all the decisions.”
The downside to this long relationship is that these clients are not getting any younger.
“If your client gets a year older every year, you’re all going to die,” added Griffin. “You want your database to either stay the same age or include younger people.”
In 2015, the company tried to attract younger millennial and Gen Z buyers by hiring a former Ferrari and Dolce & Gabbana executive to give the 60-year-old Midwestern brand a modern Italian makeover with party dresses and Missing out on high heels.
The results were – from a technical point of view – catastrophic.
In just a year, Lands’ End went from a profit of $9.2 million to a loss of $7.7 million and customers were abandoning the brand. The boomer moms didn’t have it.
The company hired the new CEO after just 19 months in office and brought Griffith on board for 2017.
During Griffith’s tenure, which ends Friday, the company leaned into its comfortable, practical bona fides and made a conscious effort to engage with buyers outside of its stores and outside of the pages of its seasonal catalogs.
The company has followed Boomer and Gen X shoppers to e-commerce marketplaces including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, and of course Amazon, where shoppers generally have the same profile — barring age.
“New customers are coming in through these marketplaces,” Griffith said. “Seventy-five percent of them have either never shopped at Lands’ End or are former customers and haven’t shopped at Lands’ End for five years. So we bring a new customer who is actually the same customer but 10 years younger. They are Gen Xers.”
New CEO Andrew McLean shared the ICR stage with Griffith and has indicated he shares his predecessor’s vision for the company.
“This is an amazing place that needs to be backed by a 7 million strong customer database,” said McLean. “When they join, they join forever.”