Lands’ End makes the most of its assets with its business outfitters and school uniforms divisions.
Think of any product the retailer is famous for, from polo shirts to Oxford shirts to fleece jackets. All can be personalized and used to outfit a national sales team, restaurant staff or employees at the corner deli.
John Maher, senior vice president of business outfitters, said the freestanding unit operates fairly independently from its $3 billion parent. “The needs of business customers are very different,” Maher said. “We hired and developed a group that thinks about the business customer first. We build our systems to act that way. That independence has allowed us to focus on those unique needs. We have tens of thousands of customers, ranging from mom-and-pop businesses to major corporations.”
Catering to the business community can be tricky. “It has to be fashion-right and trend-right,” Maher said. “It also has to last and has to fit right. We have to fit a wide range of sizes and job functions, so it has to wear really well. Fit and durability are extremely important.”
Most of the division’s business involves logo embroidery — Lands’ End has one of the largest embroidery operations in the country. The business, which got started 20 years ago, has “a very active and robust Web site,” Maher said. “We also mail a lot of catalogues. We advertise in trade and industry publications that we know resonate with our customers, such as banking, hospitality and automotive.”
Once a uniform is designed, a Web site is built for that company. This allows its employees to visit and buy their uniforms using allocations they get from their companies. Prices range from polo shirts, $19.50 plus $6 for the logo, to tailored suits for several hundred dollars.
Business outfitters’ main clients include Southwest Airlines, Hampton Hotels and Caterpillar.
“This has been a tremendous growth vehicle for Lands’ End,” Maher said. “We don’t see any signs of it slowing down.”
School uniforms are also a growing category for Lands’ End, increasing by 15.5 percent last year. The reason for all the interest, said Adam Weil, senior director of the uniforms business, is that some schools, for socioeconomic reasons, want to level the playing field, while others are moving toward stricter dress codes and uniforms. “We’re in a good position to service that,” he said.
Weil stressed the quality of the uniforms, polos that don’t shrink or fade and a money-back guarantee. Polo shirts are $18; chinos, $30; skirts, $30, and jumpers, $40.
The uniform division, which began in 1997, now services more than 6,000 schools nationwide. Besides a Web site and catalogue, 200 Sears stores with Lands’ End shops sell the collection year-round. They can also be purchased from kiosks.
Like business outfitters, the school uniforms division creates a customized Web site for each school. Lands’ End gives a percentage of sales back to the schools it services. In each of the last four years, the company has given back $1 million to schools.