Robb Giammatteo, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the Ascena Retail Group Inc., described the market as “very dynamic and a bit choppy” and filled with competitors.
Consumers are beset by stale wage growth, spending money on durable goods and experiences and, in the middle of the country, find their incomes imperiled by low oil prices. They’re also focused on what it’s like to shop in stores and ready to be either surprised or angered every day.
But that’s just part of the picture for the 4,900-door retailer, which is the parent to Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant, Justice and more.
“We’ve got the competitive set evolving,” Giammatteo told investors at the Telsey Advisory Group Spring Consumer Conference Wednesday. “You’ve got the off-price guys doing tremendously well. You’ve got the fashion guys.”
He singled out Primark and Amazon and said the competitive market is heating up.
“[Competition] just gets tougher, just gets tougher,” Giammatteo said. “The Primarks of the world, which you know originally you might have written off saying just low-price and low-quality and no e-com channel — but seeing a lot of pieces…they really have a compelling fashion. So how do you compete against somebody like that? You have to compete with experience like the e-com channel. They don’t have the in-store experience, how are you special versus somebody who just has great fashion and is a big box.”
He also noted that Amazon, which has a growing interest in fashion, is an interesting case.
“They don’t have some of the pressures that we do in terms of we have to make money in the sector, they don’t necessarily,” the cfo said. “That said, it’s not easy to be a specialty retailer. I mean, you have to have good product and yes, they have a lot of data and yes, they have a lot of resources to throw at us, so they’re certainly a serious competitor. But again, not easy, got to have the right product and you got to deliver it to your customer.”
In the end, he said every brand has to have an “incredible attachment to its customer, incredible knowledge of its customer and has to deliver it every day, because the moment you slip and the moment you’re not delivering that experience for her, it gets really dangerous out there.”