Teen retail brand Hollister has a new point of view: Customers come first.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which owns the brand, has been on a mission to turn around operations since Fran Horowitz joined the company in October 2014 as Hollister’s brand president. First up was a revamping of the brand’s look. The first test for the updated format began in May 2015. With positive feedback from store associates as well as the customer — think Mom and Dad — and the end consumer — the teens — Abercrombie has been rolling out the look, retrofitting 15 stores in 2015. According to Horowitz, who was elevated to president and chief merchandising officer in December for the entire company, the plan this year is to retrofit 60 Hollister stores. The changeover is being done first across Hollister’s 414 stores in the U.S. before working on its 139 locations internationally.
So what’s new? Just about the entire store. Horowitz, who on Thursday was at the Hollister store at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, N.J., said, “We put the customer at the center of everything.”
That was reflected in the updated store layout, not to mention lighting fixtures and the merchandising of the product. Gone is the darkness that once enveloped the inside of the store, and the beach hut that beckoned one to enter through the Hollister doors. The new format features a storefront made from clear glass, allowing customers and consumers on the outside to get a peek of the product that’s inside. A big video screen in front of the entry doors can feature any message the brand chooses to show, whether it’s upcoming products or an item that’s on sale to attract interest from passersby. The Hollister color Surf Grey now is the central color backdrop used in the stores, a neutral that easily provides a soft contrast to whatever is the current season’s color palette. And the scent in the store has been toned down.
The store had already flowed in its summer floor set, and while the merchandise stayed true to its California lifestyle roots, it was both more colorful and of better quality. Horowitz said the company has 14 major floor sets throughout the year, and flows new product into the stores “almost all the time.” The company is also considering different ideas for a store format change at its core Abercrombie stores, although Horowitz said it’s still in the “early” stages.
New tables were added that allowed for a greater amount of merchandise to be stocked and showcased than before. Aisles are wider and there was a feeling of openness in the layout. Store associates can be by the center of the store where checkout was located, and still look front and back to see which “guests” might need assistance.
“Before, someone could be in a fitting room and [the store associate] wouldn’t know it,” Horowitz said.
The center where checkout is located, houses its new accessories offerings. And with the customer in mind, the jeans stacked on the shelving units are now turned around, with the waistbands in front to allow shoppers to better view the tags without needing to reach all the way back to look, or pull the pair of jeans out of the stack.
The merchandise is split about 50-50 between the guys and the girls, Horowitz said. For the guys, a sleeveless graphic T-shirt was $18.95, while a long-sleeved cotton shirt was $39.99. For the women, a cropped bohemian, peasant-styled top was $29.99, and a blush-colored denim short featuring a distressed look and the trendy unfinished hem was priced at $49.99.
According to Horowitz, along with the new look are fewer promotions in the store. And store associates are now quicker to point out key performance indicators, or KPIs, such as traffic and conversion rates, whenever she visits, the company president said.