Eddie Bauer has created a new customization program that will launch online and in select stores today.
Eddie Bauer Custom allows shoppers to take its signature Microtherm Stormdown Jacket and personalize it through color, linings, zippers and other details. All told, the company said, over one million configurations are possible. The technology will be offered online and in kiosks in eight key retail doors including New York, Oak Brook, Ill., and San Francisco.
Although only the Stormdown jacket is being offered at this point, Eddie Bauer expects to roll the technology out to other products in 2016. While the retailer believes the technology will be accepted in nearly every category, other outerwear pieces along with day packs and gear are the most logical next steps, according to company executives.
Damien Huang, senior vice president of product and design, said customization is “almost an expectation for customers today in a lot of categories. We believe our customers want it and we’re uniquely situated from a supply chain and an e-commerce standpoint to offer it. This is not just a PR thing, or a gimmick, but an integral part of the customer experience.”
He said the 95-year-old company, which boasts that it is the originator of the down jacket, “also wanted to do something unique and different in down.”
The customized jacket will retail for 25 percent more than the traditional Stormdown model and it will cost $20 to ship the item. Custom monogramming is also offered for an additional fee. Without customization, the jacket retails for $200, but the personalization brings the price up to $249 for a non-hooded model and $279 for the hooded.
The customization program is the latest initiative from the company that has been owned by Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm, since 2009. Michael Egeck, a 30-year industry executive whose background included The North Face and Columbia Sportswear, joined the company a little over three years ago as chief executive officer. His goal has been to return the company to its origins as a high-performance outdoor brand.
He said the retailer, which operates 334 stores, has performed well of late as it focused on revamping its product offering, store design and key categories.
“It’s not easy transforming a brand back to its roots but we’re pleased with the progress,” he said. Egeck said three years ago, outerwear and performance product was 20 percent of the mix, but this year, it will reach 45 percent. “And it’s growing in the high teens,” he said.
He said this has involved exiting non-core product categories and non-performance sportswear. “So the top line is flat, but we’re making more money every year. We have good momentum and next year we’ll have more performance than non-performance product.”
The store strategy is also being tweaked, Egeck said. While the overall count has remained steady, new stores are now smaller, averaging 4,000 square feet instead of 6,500. And the design is no longer “a woodsy lodge,” but more modern and technologically advanced.
Egeck said that as the brand continues down its reinvention path, the next step is to embark on a “fairly aggressive new store strategy.” The company recently reacquired its license in Germany, its business in Japan is healthy and it is looking for partners in China and Korea, he added.
So while Golden Gate will eventually be looking for an exit strategy, it won’t be immediately. “There’s a clear growth plan for this brand,” he said. “So between the assortment, the new stores and the rebranding, we’ll have touched every part of the business. We’re confident of our path forward.”