- Lands’ End’s baby-boomer shoppers are among the most loyal of any brand, but they are aging.
- Sales fell when the company tried to attract millennials in 2015 with a move into party dresses and heels.
- In recent years Lands’ End has made a concerted effort to reach oft-overlooked Gen X shoppers.
Once America’s largest mail-order clothing company, Lands’ End has cultivated spectacularly high loyalty from its core customers with its offerings of sensible swimwear, cozy parkas, and mom jeans.
But as the Wisconsin-based company looks to expand its reach, it’s eyeing a demographic that gets little love from retailers: Generation X.
The average Lands’ End shopper stays with the brand for 18 years, outgoing CEO Jerome Griffith said at the annual ICR conference earlier in January, and that’s a trait the company is hoping to replicate with new customers, too.
“Our customer is — actually, she is a great woman,” Griffith said according to a recording and transcript from AlphaSense. “She is a baby boomer. She is in her mid-50s. She lives in suburbia. She works. She’s frugal. She has a pretty good household income, well over $100,000 a year. She is having children at home — or had children at home — and she buys for the whole family. She’s the one that makes all the decisions.”
The flipside to that long relationship is that those customers aren’t getting any younger.
“If your customer gets a year older every year, you’re all going to die,” Griffin added. “You want your database to either stay at the same age or bring in younger people.”
In 2015, the company attempted to attract younger buyers in the millennial and Gen Z segment by hiring a former Ferrari and Dolce & Gabbana executive to give the 60-year-old midwestern brand a modern Italian makeover, featuring party dresses and high heels.
The results were — in technical terms — catastrophic.
Within just one year Lands’ End swung from a $9.2 million profit to a $7.7 million loss and customers were abandoning the brand. The boomer moms weren’t having it.
The company booted the new CEO after just 19 months on the job, and brought Griffith on board for 2017.
During Griffith’s tenure, which ends on Friday, the company leaned into its comfy practical bona fides and made a deliberate effort to connect with shoppers beyond its stores and outside 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 the shoppers generally have the same profile — apart from age.
“New customers come in through these marketplaces,” Griffith said. “Seventy-five percent of them either never shopped at Lands’ End, or are lapsed customers and haven’t shopped at Lands’ End for five years. So we’re bringing in a new customer who’s actually the same customer, but 10 years younger. They’re Gen Xers.”
Incoming CEO Andrew McLean shared the ICR stage with Griffith and has indicated he shares his predecessor’s vision for the company.
“That’s an astonishing place to be underpinned by a 7 million-strong customer database.” McLean said. “When they join, they join forever.”