Loft has reason to celebrate.
The brand logged its second consecutive period of double-digit comp sales growth and built capabilities such as speed-to-market, allowing it to deliver more quickly styles informed by consumers’ preferences. Its new loyalty program is gaining traction; Loft is launching a size-inclusive subscription rental service, Infinitely Loft, and introduced Loft Littles, a mommy and me collection for Mother’s Day.
Loft, along with Ann Taylor, is part of Ascena Retail Group‘s premium portfolio, which has been leading the way as the $6.5 billion company struggles with uneven performances at Dressbarn, Justice, Cacique and Lane Bryant. Earlier this month, Gary Muto, president and chief executive officer of Ascena Brands, was named ceo of the company when David Jaffe, who also held the title of chairman, retired.
Comp-store sales in the most recent holiday period increased by 14 percent, and advanced 10 percent in the second quarter ended Feb. 2.
“This is about recognizing that we’re on a bit of a roll,” said Loft president Andrew Clarke. “Our strategies are starting to work and are gaining momentum. We’re connecting with clients in new and unexpected ways.
“Give us another quarter,” Clarke said about making a definitive declaration about the positive trend. “We’re quietly confident that we’re in a phase of trying new things. [The consumer] has given us permission to play in certain categories and how we communicate with her. If certain things don’t work, it’s alright, we test, iterate and move on. We need to bring on innovative ideas.”
Consumer research and supply chain technology have contributed to Loft’s progress, Clarke said, adding, “What’s giving us an edge is speed-to-market. Once we’re armed with data, we don’t want to wait six months to bring products into stores. We’re building capabilities to bring in the assortments. She’s telling us what she wants — we’re not telling her — and we’re using the data to guide us.
“We’ve experimented with considerable success using 3-D technology to design products,” Clarke said. “You can really chase the top [styles] in under 40 days. We’re a print- and pattern-heavy business.”
Infinitely Loft is about experimenting with ways to be more sustainable,” Clarke said, adding, “That’s another reason to love rental.”
Loft has made inclusiveness one of its pillars. Infinitely Loft, the brand’s new subscription rental service, offers styles in sizes 00 to 26, including petite, tall, plus and maternity. Consumers can subscribe to Infinitely Loft for a monthly fee of $64.95. Any mix of three garments — dresses, skirts, tops, jackets and pants — can be rented at one time with unlimited box swaps per month. Members have the option of purchasing items at the discount rate of 50 to 80 percent off the retail price, plus unlimited free shipping and returns, complimentary dry-cleaning and a triple-check quality assurance to ensure every piece is pristine.
Infinitely Loft is utilizing CaaStle’s rental technology platform and white-glove service to handle all reverse logistics, garment care, shipping and more.
Clarke said Loft is bringing learnings from e-commerce and the more than 500 brick-and-mortar locations it operates, to Infinitely. The woman who subscribes to Infinitely Loft is busy client and wants “us to show up and be there for her, wherever she chooses to shop. This is about saving her time, and increasing her access to the brand. We’re evolving that relationship into an endless closet.
“We’re thinking about the business and retail differently,” Clarke said. “We’re engaging with the client in an emotional way, and have a constant dialogue. That dialogue is important. And some of what she’s telling us helps to influence and shape the assortment — and that’s working for us. The more we know about the woman who loves Loft, the better we are at giving her the product and experience she is looking for from us.”
“We know that Loft as a brand has very broad appeal,” said Laura Jacobs, chief marketing officer, adding that the client’s closet requirements evolve with her mood and style. “Infinitely Loft is very complementary to life stages. Say, you’re graduating and you need some clothing for job interviews, or your daughter is graduating and you need a marvelous dress. You get access to an entire wardrobe for a month. This exposes us to new clients, which enables us to broaden the assortment.”
“We’re offering our customers in our subscription service the vast majority of the Loft assortment, and from what we’re hearing from clients, that’s a unique differentiator in the market,” Clarke said. “Loft Littles is not the world’s biggest [collection], but we have to bring new things monthly and weekly. We extended petites and we’re stamping on the gas for maternity, and getting back into suiting. The last year has been incredible.”