ORLANDO, Fla. — While fashion brands and retailers across the spectrum headed to central Florida to connect with investors this week, they’re willing to meet their consumers anywhere.
That was the running theme during this year’s three-day ICR Conference, held here, as more than 2,500 attendees from roughly 200 public and private companies talked about the importance of building omnichannel customers while nibbling on Torchy’s Tacos platters and enjoying complimentary Glamsquad touch-ups.
“That’s really the most important customer to us today,” said Fran Horowitz, chief executive officer of Abercrombie & Fitch. “They’re our most important productive and profitable customer. The consumer [who] shops with us on both channels [online and in stores], it’s when we really win. That business process continues to become increasingly more important.”
It’s not just Abercrombie.
Investors from firms like Baird, J.P. Morgan, BMO, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Cowen, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, listened as fashion firms made their best pitches for future growth, both online and in real life. Among them were Guess Inc., Aritzia Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Vince Holding Corp. and RTW Retailwinds Inc. Private companies included Faire, Bailey Nelson, PSD Underwear and Tula Skincare.
The fashion trends varied, but there was one constant: the need to exist everywhere.
“Our customer knows how to shop on a mobile phone; they’re very digital savvy,” said Jerome Griffith, chief executive officer and president of Lands’ End.
Rental is another avenue.
Brendan Hoffman, ceo of luxury retailer Vince, said his company was one of the first brands to offer rental services when it launched Vince Unfold less than a year ago.
“We’re thrilled with the results,” Hoffman said.
The company is also “working furiously” to launch in China this year, according to the ceo.
Apparel retailer Guess is also expanding internationally. Carlos Alberini, the company’s ceo, said there’s opportunity to grow the customer base and brand awareness in both Asia and the Americas, in addition to Europe, which is currently Guess’ largest market.
And on the digital front, brands that once existed on the Internet only are now eager to get physical.
Digital lingerie start-up ThirdLove has announced plans to open more brick-and-mortar locations this year. (The company currently has two physical stores.)
Digital beauty brand Glamsquad offers its own take on the real-life experience, making house calls — it literally meets customer wherever they are. Glamsquad also allows customers to touch and feel products sold by way of CVS stores.
“Online, while a great option, it lacks a certain level of intimacy and customization,” said Amy Shecter, Glamsquad ceo.
Footwear and accessories retailer Genesco executives called their stores “a strategic asset.”
“Store refurbishments, it’s the number-one place where we’ve deployed our capital over the last year,” said executives of the company that operates brands such as Journeys, Schuh and Little Burgundy. “We need our stores to be in really terrific shape when our customer comes in. We need them to be able to be in an environment that’s exciting.”
And while Chico’s FAS is closing stores in its namesake chain, company executives said there are opportunities to expand the Soma banner.
“Retail real estate still has a lot of demand,” said Benjamin Schall, president and ceo of Seritage Growth Properties. “In a world with fewer stores people are asking, how do those fewer stores capture a bigger portion of that retail area? In addition to omnichannel, our view is that these physical stores are going to be these great hubs of activity.”
He added that while people are going to fewer stores, when they do go to brick-and-mortar locations, they tend to spend more. That’s incentive for retailers to make them more compelling.
“E-commerce and retail, it’s all the same to me,” Drexler said. “There’s no difference from online and in store. You know, in the old days it was in catalogues. And online has been around for 10 or 15 years. It’s not like they’re doing a new thing. Everyone kind of blames store closings because of online.”
Instead, he said, “people built too many stores and they don’t have good product.”