There was another conclave that finished up its work on Wednesday.
This story first appeared in the March 14, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Top fashion executives helped wrap up the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Consumer and Retail Conference by acknowledging past missteps, pointing to growth opportunities and dissecting the consumer’s omni-impulses.
Here’s a look at what executives said on day two of the conference.
Ken Hannah, executive vice president, chief financial officer, J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
• “We launched an entirely new strategy in 2012. We changed everything in the company but the address, and if you read the papers, you’ll see that we’re sitting on 300 acres of the most sought-after land in all of Dallas, and if someone wants to pay me a pretty penny for it, I’ll gladly take our team and put them into something [that’s a more appropriate size] for the business that we have today.”
• “First and foremost, we have to connect with our customers, with all of them. We’ve done a number of things inside the store that have allowed us to attract a new customer, and in some cases that’s been at the expense of our core, and we cannot allow that to happen.”
• “The company was very enthusiastic about the judge’s ruling [in the Martha Stewart case] to push this over to mediation. I think there was a feeling in the press that there was one side that was winning or losing, and at the end of the day the judge said you guys need to resolve this, and we certainly intend to do so.”
Jeffrey Gennette, chief merchandising officer, Macy’s Inc.
• “A week ago, we just launched Marilyn Monroe, which has been a strong addition to our arsenal. Yesterday we launched Made through the Milk Studios. Next week we’re going to be launching the brand Teen Vogue….So all of those will be opportunity to reach new customers that have been underserved or customers that have been served in a classifications business that has more distribution and more channels than we were comfortable with, and we believe that we could be more profitable, more distinctive and more Macy’s by going after the brand wins.”
Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer, Saks Inc.
• “There is going to be a little bit of a period where the high-end customer is going to adjust to the new environment. And I’d use that word, ‘adjusting,’ because they’ll deal with it fine, and we know our customer is tied much more to how do they feel about their net worth. But until they resolve and understand what the tax piece of it is going to mean, its affects them and it’s affected New York as well….New York is the epicenter of the high-end consumer. And you’ve see a slowdown in New York relative to other markets and again, I think that will turn over time.”
Michael Koppel, executive vice president and cfo, Nordstrom Inc.
• “We finally, after some period of time of really adjusting our strategy, are making some great progress with women’s apparel. We brought in the Topshop brand to be more relevant with that younger customer.”
• “We are a 112-year-old growth company. Our values haven’t changed. We still stand behind serving our customers one at a time.”
Jonathan E. Ramsden, cfo and executive vice president, Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
• “We’re very encouraged about what we’re seeing. We certainly, when we opened up in China, we didn’t have anything like the level of awareness when we opened up in Germany or the U.K. So the store was opened more modestly. But I think what we’re excited about is the fact that all of the Chinese stores that are comping are comping positively. Hong Kong is extremely strong.”
• “So we’re encouraged by Hong Kong and China. [South] Korea, we’re just getting started. But that’s looking good too. So it’s early days, but we feel encouraged and excited by what we’re seeing. We’re also very excited about going back into Japan with Hollister this summer, and clearly if we can get some traction there, that could be a huge opportunity.”
Thomas Chubb 3rd, president and ceo, Oxford Industries Inc.
• “The Japanese market will probably be the major initiative [for Tommy Bahama] in Asia….We think the opportunity there is a big, long-term opportunity. We’re trying to do this the right way, trying to build the team and the systems we need to really run a business there correctly…. We’re very much in the early learning phase at this point, but we’re liking an awful lot of what we’re seeing.”
• “In apparel…there’s an experiential element in [brick-and-mortar stores, as opposed to online] that people are always going to want….The consumer is telling us that she wants what a lot of people are calling a seamless omnichannel experience. She wants to be able to shop in the store, return to [e-commerce]; try it on in the store but go home and buy it from e-com, or look at it online but then go into the store and say, ‘These are the three things I want to look at.’”