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When Richard Baker, the chairman and chief executive officer of Hudson’s Bay Co., began the process of buying Saks Fifth Avenue last spring, he had all the financial and due diligence help he could use. Understanding the heart and soul of Saks was another matter.
That’s where Jaqui Lividini, a former Saks fashion merchandising and communications executive and already a close adviser to Baker with his Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay department store holdings, entered the picture. “He needed someone to help with the brand vision, what direction the brand should take, and what I saw as the opportunities for Saks — where its place was in the competitive landscape,” said Lividini. Six weeks later, well before the deal was done, Lividini & Co. handed Baker a 50-page report painting a portrait of Saks and its potential.
These days, Lividini, who parlayed two decades of working at Saks into a branding and communications firm stacked with former Saks staffers, is as industry-embedded as ever with L&Co. It’s evident from the roster of clients and projects involving S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, brand distribution and growth strategies, retail strategies, sharpening brand identities, media planning, public relations and, as with Baker, c-level consulting.
In her latest maneuver, she’s hired Sunny Diego, another Saks expatriate, as chief merchant to run a new merchandising practice at L&Co. Diego was chief merchant, senior vice president of merchandising at Li & Fung’s men’s division, and earlier was a Saks vice president and divisional merchandising manager for men’s private brands. She spent 18 years at Saks in buying and fashion director roles on both the women’s and men’s sides.
“Our new merchandising practice is something I’ve been thinking about for some time,” Lividini said. “I couldn’t personally focus on it at a deeper level because our core business was expanding so rapidly. My idea of a 360-degree approach to brands couldn’t be realized without this.”
Diego’s skill set, Lividini said, enables L&Co. “to build brands from the ground up — everything from sku [stockkeeping unit] plans to building collection plans that meet financial goals and working with design and sales to execute a strategy.’’
With the new practice, L&Co. adopts “a more holistic approach to brands. We were a strategic brand communications firm. Now we’ve evolved into a brand engagement firm,” said Lividini.
With fine jewelry designer Monica Rich Kosann, the challenge was to expand her collection, refine its brand messaging and strengthen retail accounts. The profile was limited so L&Co. positioned Rich Kosann as an emerging jewelry talent. L&Co. worked with the designer to develop seasonal collections, a more accessible line of silver, press previews, look books and improve the Web site to reach more retailers and consumers.
With Planet London, a widely-known brand in Europe owned by Jacques Vert, the challenge was to take it to the U.S. where it was virtually unknown. L&Co. did an analysis of the outerwear market with trend data, price modeling, competitive overviews and a vendor analysis of American retailers being targeted. “Sunny worked out of the brand’s London headquarters with Planet London’s design and merchandising teams to evaluate the styling of the collection, edit the presentation and collaborate with the design team to assure that the silhouettes and details were relevant for the U.S. consumer,” Lividini said. As a new vendor to U.S. retailers, “Planet London’s styling and price point must offer something American retailers are currently not offering customers.” L&Co. is arranging Planet London’s first New York retailer and press preview.
Other clients include Fossil, Josie Natori, Scoop, Robert Graham, Urban Outfitters and Vince as well as HBC. Lividini said she’s keeping her company manageable, handling about 20 clients at a time.
She has two partners and managing directors: Lynette Harrison, who develops growth strategies and media planning, and Lori Rhodes, who directs brand experience, marketing, communications and retail strategies. Andrew Blecher, vice president, supervises corporate communications in addition to overseeing clients, while Lividini concentrates on the brand discovery and c-level consulting as she’s done with Baker. “Jaqui and her company have been involved with us since the very beginning, when we bought Lord & Taylor,” Baker said. “She helped us build a plan and understand the business and the market dynamics to be successful. With Hudson’s Bay, it’s been the same story.”