Emily Erusha-Hilleque, formerly with Target Corp., has joined Macy’s Inc. as a senior vice president leading the private brand strategy and overseeing the private brands’ design teams in apparel, center core and home.
For a number of reasons, it’s a critical role that Erusha-Hilleque fills. The buildup of the private brand business is a core component of Macy’s “Polaris” strategy, which is the road map for taking the retailer into the future. Private brands account for 15 to 20 percent of the total volume of the Macy’s brand, depending on the year. The company expects private brands to represent 25 percent of sales by 2025. Macy’s Inc., including the Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury brands, generated $24.6 billion in sales last year.
Also, women’s ready-to-wear hasn’t been a bright spot at Macy’s. It’s been criticized as predictable, too dependent on widely distributed labels, and lacking distinction. But over the past year or so, there’s been a string of initiatives to add relevancy, exclusivity and a more youthful appeal to the presentation. Private brands could help lift the business by providing exclusive and more relevant products that can yield better margins than market brands.
Last July Macy’s introduced a private brand called “And Now This,” which Durand Guion, vice president of the the retailer’s fashion office, characterized as “elevated essentials and basics at affordable prices for contemporary shoppers looking to embrace trends and confidently express themselves through fashion.”
In home, a private brand called Oake was introduced last year as well. It’s a sustainably-minded, textural assortment of sheets, quilts, duvet sets, comforter sets, bath towels and mats, decorative pillows and blankets.
Erusha-Hilleque will report to Nata Dvir, chief merchandising officer of Macy’s. In driving the private brand strategy, she will be working with Macy’s merchandising and sourcing teams. Macy’s said the role Erusha-Hilleque is filling is a new one.
“Emily is joining Macy’s at an exciting time in our transformation,” said Dvir. “We are building on our strong legacy to create a portfolio of private and market brands that are compelling, unique and appeal to both our current and future customers. Establishing our private brand portfolio as our differentiator is a key tenet of the ‘Win With Fashion and Style’ pillar of our Polaris strategy.
”Emily brings leadership and expertise in creating industry-disrupting brands and driving successful product design and merchandising strategies. She has her finger on the pulse of the consumer and on trends,” Dvir said, calling Erusha-Hilleque “pivotal in propelling our merchandising transformation forward.”
Macy’s Polaris strategy involves efforts to strengthen customer loyalty and personalization; improve the quality of its fashion offerings and sharpen the focus of private brands; accelerate digital sales; close 125 stores from 2020 to 2022 and upgrade the top 250 stores; grow off-price operations, and modernize the supply chain. So far, about half of the 125 stores have been closed, and other closings have been delayed in order to maintain a physical presence in certain markets where Macy’s has recently begun opening off-mall format stores, namely Market by Macy’s, Bloomies and Bloomingdale’s The Outlet. The traditional department stores double as fulfillment hubs supporting digital operations through buy online, pick up in store, curbside pickup and same-day delivery.
At Target, Erusha-Hilleque was design director of ready-to-wear, young contemporary private label and design partnerships. She was responsible for launching and growing the Wild Fable private label for young women seeking trend-driven clothes and accessories, and collaborations with Levi’s, Christopher John Rogers, Alexis, Rixo, Nili Lotan, Sandy Liang, Victor Glemaud, Rachel Comey, Christian Robinson and Lego.
Said Erusha-Hilleque: “I am looking forward to working with Nata and the entire team to discover innovative ways to further elevate Macy’s private brands and position them for continued success.”
Key fashion private brands at Macy’s include INC International Concepts, Alfani, Style & Co and Charter Club. Hotel is a key home private brand and more expensive than Oake.
“The new structure forms a design community, allowing us to make sure our private brands are consistent across categories. It also provides us with opportunities to invest in the development of our design talent. This community will continue to partner closely with the wider Macy’s merchandising, fashion office and sourcing teams,” the spokeswoman said.
Macy’s has been trying to understand its customers better. Over the past few months the retailer has been working with Brand Love Lab, a management consulting company involved in branding, and conducting studies “to understand the needs of our customer across their life stages and style,” the spokeswoman said.
Target also provided J.C. Penney Co. Inc. with a key merchant. In February 2019, Michelle Wlazlo, who was Target’s senior vice president of apparel and accessories merchandising, joined J.C. Penney as executive vice president, chief merchant.