Filene’s Basement, the venerable off-price retailer, will be back in business late September with a Web site promoting designer discounts up to 70 percent off, WWD has learned.
“The Basement,” as it was widely called, plummeted into bankruptcy in late 2011 along with its parent Syms Corp. after an ill-fated expansion and tough competition from T.J. Maxx, Nordstrom Rack and other major off-pricers.
But Trinity Place Holdings Inc., which is no doubt well aware that off-price is a red-hot retail sector and sensing lasting value in the Filene’s Basement name, took control of the brand’s assets, trademarks and copyright in late 2012 with intentions to relaunch the brand. Trinity Place Holdings is a real estate holding, investment and asset management firm.
No stores are planned, but since departing from the retail scene Filene’s Basement has not been forgotten. It’s best known for its original downtown Boston flagship location where fervid bargain hunters could be seen disrobing in aisles to try on clothes. There were no changing rooms. The Basement also pioneered an automatic markdown system that drove anticipation of deals and traffic to the stores.
Filene’s Basement was founded in Boston in 1909 by Edward Filene. In 2009, The Basement was acquired out of bankruptcy by rival off-price retailer Syms Corp. which, two years later, itself went bankrupt.
The hard times haven’t wiped out the memories. “Filene’s Basement is emotionally connected to so many shoppers,” Mara Wedeck, chief marketing officer of filenesbasement.com, said in an exclusive interview.
Wedeck said the strategy is to attract both those who shopped Filene’s Basement, as well as Millennials that might never have stepped into one of the stores, but hanker for bargains and like getting them online.
According to Wedeck, key features of the upcoming filenesbasement.com include a high-level of personalization, over 1 million stockkeeping units with an emphasis on designer discounts, and “that sense of hunt shoppers loved.” There will also be free delivery in the U.S., generally in three to seven business days, but possibly taking up to ten.
At the get-go, shoppers will each be invited to answer questions to determine their personal style. That information and the shopper’s activity on the site will be used to generate a personalized home page, called a Style Feed, for each shopper.
Another feature will be called My Basement, which Wedeck described as a private wish list, where items can be stored and considered for purchase, though the items are not reserved.
Men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel; home; beauty; bridal; shoes; accessories, and jewelry will be part of the assortment, which will be composed of overruns and unsold merchandise from retailers, vendors, jobbers and designers. “We are working with a variety of partners,” Wedeck said. However, for now at least, there is no merchandise being manufactured direct for filenesbasement.com
Discounts will be up to 70 percent off, though the old automatic markdown system won’t be incorporated. The merchandise will be both in-season and aged.
Among the brands that will be on the Web site when it launches are Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Alice + Olivia, Hudson Jeans, Polo Ralph Lauren, Joie, Michael Kors and Rebecca Minkoff, Wedeck said.
Wedeck said the personalization tool is most important, considering that items are expected to run out fast since at off-pricers, items are typically not available in great supply. The personalization tool will constantly enable shoppers to see similar products. According to the company, once a product count goes to zero in the database system, the image of the product is automatically dropped from the site. If more skus are attained, they are reloaded.
The team, based in New York, includes Matt Messinger, president and chief executive officer of Trinity Place Holdings and Andrew Clark, director of consumer experience, filenesbasement.com, as well as Wedeck.