NEW YORK — After helping along Coach and then Ann Taylor, Catherine Sadler is striking out on her own.
This story first appeared in the April 1, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sadler, who stepped down as chief marketing officer of Ann Taylor Stores Corp. on Wednesday, turned a page in her career and launched the Catherine Sadler Group, a brand consultancy. So far, the budding business counts furniture design company Tucker Robbins and jewelry design firm Angela Cummings/QVC as its clients.
Sadler is hoping, though, that her branding experience will beget other fashionable clients. She logged seven years at Coach and another seven at Ann Taylor after a stint at Sir Terence Conran’s home furnishings chain, Habitat.
“Even the rain doesn’t bother me today,” said an enthusiastic Sadler in an interview.
CSG currently consists just of Sadler and an assistant, but it will look to create for its clients “an emotional connection between the brand and the customer” through what Sadler described as “relationship branding.”
“The nature of branding is optimistic,” she said, adding it turns on past and future relationships between products and customers. “Branding is like a love affair. It’s about striking those authentic chords that you can support,” she noted.
Making promises in marketing that the product can’t back up is a recipe for failure, she said.
Sadler worked at Coach from 1990 to 1997, a time of significant growth, when sales grew from $100 million to $600 million. The American legacy campaign, which featured relatives of famous Americans, such as George Washington, with Coach products, was just one of the campaigns on which she worked.
When Sadler joined Ann Taylor in 1997, she recalled, “Marketing consisted of the sign shop that was producing in-store signs.”
Ann Taylor, she noted, stands for femininity and sophistication. Sadler’s marketing efforts focusing on those attributes helped the retailer develop its recognition as a brand, instead of a store, and contributed to an increase in sales from $750 million to $1.6 billion during her tenure.
With CSG, Sadler is looking forward to starting again from scratch.