Since its founding in 1670 as a Canadian fur trader, Hudson’s Bay Co. has established itself as a company of adventurers. And those adventures continue today as the Toronto-based retailer, which owns both Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, absorbs its newest acquisition, Saks Fifth Avenue.
Touted as the “oldest continually operating company in North America,” HBC has worked diligently to modernize its stores and make them relevant to today’s customers. Men’s wear is considered one of the biggest growth areas, and the store is expending a lot of time and resources to capture those opportunities. At L&T, for example, the company recently completed a major overhaul of the men’s area at the New York City flagship that included the addition of an extra floor and a revamping of the merchandise mix.
Liz Rodbell, president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, who cut her teeth in men’s wear as general merchandise manager of men’s at L&T in the Nineties, said: “As a company of adventurers, we’re on a mission to transform our men’s business.”
She ticked off five strategies the company is employing to achieve that goal, the first of which is to “build the team.” In 2012, HBC created a department store group to integrate the best executives and practices of both Hudson’s Bay and L&T “while retaining each banner’s unique personality.” By consistently communicating with the team, the organization as a whole can achieve success. This dialogue has resulted in the company’s creation of a “customer experience” position, which is designed to improve customer service by making sure inventories are in line with demand both in stores and online. Additionally, “this year we have set out to deliver a ‘customer-first’ experience across all of our touch points,” she added. Creating a “customer-centric culture” is at the heart of Rodbell’s mission. She related how she and her husband took a road trip across Canada last summer “to see the country — our very own version of a Canadian adventure.” They stopped to visit as many Hudson’s Bay stores as possible, and “what struck me was the relationship our staff had with our customers; the associates treated the customers as if they were guests in their own home.” This “ precise understanding of our customer” is also central to Rodbell’s vision to how the stores can succeed in men’s.
It’s also essential that the stores “get in the game,” she said. “As retailers, we can talk about ideas, but it’s risk-taking that transforms us into adventurers. We have to be in it to win it.”
The company became the official outfitter of the Canadian Olympic team in 2006, creating uniforms for the athletes and selling the product in the stores and online. This initiative resulted in the retailer raising $28 million for Canadian athletes and catapulting HBS beyond its position as “just a department store,” she said.
This campaign also “resonates with our men’s customers,” she said. “This demonstrates that we’re ‘in the game’ of understanding them and, ultimately, dressing them.”
Her third mission is to create differentiation within the product offering. Six years ago, the company tapped designer Joseph Abboud to create an exclusive brand for L&T called Black Brown 1826 to fill a “void for modern product with unique styling.” Since then, the brand has rolled out across all Hudson’s Bay stores and is “one of our best-selling brands.” A luxe offering launched last year has also performed well, and footwear will be added for fall. The success of this brand served as the “blueprint” for 424 Fifth, the company’s recently introduced women’s wear collection.
The fourth mission is to evolve the in-store merchandising to “fit the demands” of today’s men’s wear shopper, one that would be “visually compelling with commanding product.” Stores have been reclassified by category — tailored, classic, modern and denim — and key brands were added. Twelve stores have been renovated so far, including the flagships in New York, Vancouver and Toronto, and the remainder have been re-merchandised to reflect this positioning.
One of the most popular brand additions has been Topman, which was added to Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada in 2011. “These shops-in-shop offer not only the merchandise, but also the actual Topshop and Topman experience,” Rodbell said, and have resulted in attracting “an entirely new customer. Now we’re attracting younger, hipper guys who had never considered shopping in a department store. He comes in for Topman and stays to check out our other merchandise. In 2013, 60 percent of these new customers cross-shopped in Hudson’s Bay.”
The store’s final mission is to improve its digital offerings, and the company has created an HBC Digital division to exploit the potential. “We no longer talk about brick-and-mortar stores versus e-commerce. For us, it’s just retail,” she said. “This is the biggest adventure and fastest growth category. The size of our brand potential is no longer based on our real estate location and store size; it’s based solely on the strength of the brand.”
It also allows the retailer to expand beyond its physical footprint and offer an expanded assortment. For example, the company operates only one Lord & Taylor store in the southern U.S., in Florida, but is embarking on “an aggressive digital marketing campaign geo-targeted in the South.” And the online offering is also being beefed up in areas such as men’s big and tall. “For men’s, there is a huge opportunity in the digital space. Men’s wear is one of our fastest-growing categories online.”
Within the brick-and-mortar stores, the retailer is employing digital technology, offering mobile payments and electronic receipts as well as in-store mapping.
In conclusion, Rodbell said that over the past few years, HBC has “transformed our men’s business by focusing on merchandising, in-store experience and marketing. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our overall mission is to have commanding fashion assortments with compelling value in a dynamic environment. In men’s wear, the great adventure we’re on is becoming a destination to wardrobe him for all of his life’s adventures.”
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye