A passion for the sea was the foundation on which Lands’ End was created in 1963, and its new president and chief executive officer is mining that heritage for a new activewear initiative that will launch on Wednesday.
Federica Marchionni, who herself lives an active life, was the catalyst behind the creation of Lands’ End Sport, a three-pronged merchandising offering that encompasses surf, performance and leisurewear for men and women.
“Offering products for land or sea is deeply rooted in the DNA of Lands’ End,” Marchionni said. “Our founder, Gary Comer, was passionate about sailing and the sporting life. I am building upon his vision, taking activewear and ath-leisure from land to sea by introducing the new Lands’ End Sport collection featuring new product innovations that will enable our customers to stay healthy and active.”
Lands’ End Sport is just one of the new merchandising strategies being employed by Marchionni, who joined the company 15 months ago from Dolce & Gabbana, where she had been president. From 2002 to 2014, Lands’ End had been owned by Sears Holding Corp. until it was spun off into a separate, publicly traded company two years ago.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for Marchionni. Last week, Lands’ End reported a net loss of $5.8 million for the quarter ended April 29, compared to net income of $1.7 million, in the year-ago period. Revenues fell to $273.4 million from $299.4 million.
Although Marchionni acknowledged the tough retail climate, she is hopeful that the work from the past year will pay off in the second half.
“We launched Canvas on April 6,” she said of Lands’ End’s reintroduced and revamped collection targeted to a younger, fashion-savvy consumer. “And now this. We’re finally getting in the new things we’ve been working on for the last year.”
Since joining the company, she said, she has been “strengthening the foundation” and using that as a jumping off point to expand the brand’s reach.
Lands’ End Sport has three separate components: surf, performance and ath-leisure.
“Ath-leisure is a big trend and the fastest-growing market in the industry,” Marchionni said. “But it’s at our core and a very authentic extension for this company.”
The Sport collection starts with the surf offering, which includes rash guards for men and women with UPF 50 protection, as well as cropped and long pants for women, board shorts and a neoprene jacket for men, and full and partial wetsuits for both genders.
The colors and patterns speak to the trends of the season and updated graphic logos embellish many of the pieces.
“Swimwear is one of our biggest pillars,” Marchionni said, “so we looked at how we could update it. Surf will be the first lines we’re pushing and then we’ll add other products throughout the summer.”
The ath-leisure line will consist of polos, T-shirts, sweatshirts, a squall jacket, totes and accessories, many with the Lands’ End logo, which has been updated to include the sky, mountains and the sea as well as the lighthouse. Polos, which will retail for $59, have grosgrain trim, contrasting under collars, longer plackets and slimmer cap sleeves. Many of the pieces have large graphics on the front or back that speak to the brand’s history.
The performance collection features wicking fabrics, reflectivity and mesh panels for breathability. Some of the product is designed for high impact workouts such as running while others are targeted to yoga studios or strolling in the streets. Jog bras, tanks, shorts, compression tights, capris, jackets and sweatshirts are among the offerings, which will range in price from $49 to $115.
The Sport collection will be marketed through print and digital ads, events and a social media push, she said.
Marchionni said the Sport line is not expected to be a big part of the company’s business immediately, but she hopes that it will gain traction as time goes on. “It’s a little baby now,” she said, “but it’s one of the bigger opportunities in the market. There are a lot of players and competition, but I believe if we’re honest, people will give us recognition for our good quality and service.”
Marchionni said her plans beyond Sport include a new men’s initiative that will be introduced later this summer, as well as a large gift assortment for holiday.
Additionally, she will build on Lands’ End’s international presence by moving further into Europe and Asia. The company has subsidiaries in the U.K. and Japan, but beyond that, “there’s no awareness in the rest of Europe and Asia,” she said. The company’s “legacy” will be a key selling point overseas.
Although the international expansion will initially be focused online, Marchionni sees Lands’ End stores in key cities. “The world is going online, but to grow the brand, we need some retail too. I envision flagships around the world to make sure the brand is relevant.”
The company operates 12 stores in the U.S., and she believes the home market is ripe for retail as well. “We had pop-ups in New York and Boston for the holidays,” she said, “and they were an amazing success. Our number-one seller was a cashmere cape sweater for $369. We learned a lot.”