Most retailers are scrambling to stay relevant by courting younger Millennials and Gen Z shoppers. Not Lands’ End.
As it seeks to grow its customer base, Lands’ End is bucking the trend by deliberately embracing the ‘forgotten generation’, Generation X.
They’re the generation of consumers sandwiched between baby boomers, born in the years following World War II, and their children, Generation Y, the youngest of whom was born in the 1980s.
“There was a strategy at a time when we were going to bring in millennials,” Lands’ End CEO Jerome Griffith, who is retiring at the end of January, told the ICR conference last week. “He didn’t fly with our customers.”
In a rush to grab the attention of young consumers, the retailer has stumbled and made fashion missteps. Sales slumped as its main older buyers were put off by elegant dresses and high-heeled evening shoes appearing alongside the comfortable clothes embraced by mums and dads.
“So we said, you know what, we have this great generation of customers right behind the baby boomers, the Gen Xers. As we go out looking for new consumers, let’s go meet them,” he said. declared.
Given that the number of Gen Z and Millennial consumers is expected to reach 70% of the population by 2028 from 60% in 2021 – and that they hold considerable purchasing power – it is not surprising that retailers are chasing this batch of buyers.
“While the Gen Z and Millennial cohorts are both lucrative and interesting, they do create a certain obsession in retail and fashion, which often comes at the expense of older generations,” said Neil Saunders, Retail Industry Analyst and Managing Director of GlobalData.
“The truth is that more mature cohorts make up a large portion of retail spend and there’s a significant opportunity that isn’t always properly captured,” he said.
Lands’ End, a 60-year-old brand based in Dodgeville, Wis., is best known for its classic, durable casualwear – fleece jackets, coats, sweaters, t-shirts, chinos and pajamas – that are designed more for comfort only to be on trend. It sells its products by mail order, online, in-store and on third-party marketplaces such as Amazon (AMZN) and Kohl’s (KSS).
But the company says it knows who its main customers are.
“She’s baby boomer, in her 50s, lives in the suburbs, works, is frugal, has a household income well over $100,000 a year and has or had children at home,” Griffith said.
About six years ago, the database of its top buyers, who typically stayed with the brand for 18 years, was shrinking. “We were losing customers,” he said.
“It’s quite rare in retail for a customer to stick with your brand for so long,” said Andrew McLean, the company’s new CEO.
Griffith said the company has tried to rejuvenate. “What you want to do as a retailer is either keep your customer base the same age or attract younger people,” he said. Tipping younger didn’t work, he says.
But going the other way in the demographic age did.
“When we seek out new customers, we really look at their shopping habits and where they shop,” Griffith said. “That’s why we’ve expanded to Amazon, Kohl’s and Target. These new customers arrive through these marketplaces,”
He said 75% of new customers who found the brand in third-party marketplaces had “either never made purchases from Lands’ End or are lapsed customers and have not made purchases from Lands’ End for five years”.
“So we are attracting a new client who is actually the same client, but 10 years younger. They are Gen Xers,” he said, adding that Gen X shoppers show the same long-term loyalty to the brand as baby boomers.
Saunders said Gen X is a good fit with Lands’ End “because their brand is much more suited to this generation… It’s not the trendiest, but it’s not out of date either. And there’s a lot practical, yet stylish pieces that suit the lifestyle many Gen Xers lead today.”
“I would be more worried if Land’s End said it was going to reinvent itself as a younger brand than saying it’s focusing on what should be its core market,” Saunders said.