Activewear continues to drive sales at Brooks Brothers – WWD

It’s been a little over a year since Brooks Brothers changed hands and the company continues its plan of reinvention.

The country’s oldest brand, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018, had fallen on hard times after 19 years of ownership by Italian billionaire Claudio Del Vecchio, ending up in bankruptcy court before being rescued by SPARC, a joint venture between Authentic Brands Group and the Simon Property Group, which paid $325 million for the business in September 2020.

Since then, the number of physical stores has been reduced – including the closure of the Madison Avenue flagship, which is personally owned by Del Vecchio – bringing its physical reach in the United States to approximately 165 stores, from some 200 at the time of the press release. sale.

But under the watchful eye of new chief executive Ken Ohashi, Brooks Brothers is aiming to return to its former glory – but with a new, more modern image. The results in 2021, according to Ohashi, were better than expected. “For the year, the business exceeded expectations and exceeded the overall plan,” he said. “It was driven by an increase in the sportswear business and the suits business as well, so we took advantage of both.”

Ohashi’s appointment of Michael Bastian as Creative Director is one of the key initiatives that led to the company’s recent success. Bastian began his retail career as an assistant buyer for Abraham & Straus and was menswear director for Bergdorf Goodman for five years before leaving in 2006 to launch his own collection. He has been nominated for the CFDA Menswear Award six times and won it in 2011. He also designed a special collection for Gant and was the acting creative director for Ted Baker.

At Brooks Brothers, Bastian was tasked with modernizing the assortment without losing sight of its rich heritage – and dramatically increasing the penetration of activewear, which represented 27% of sales at the time of the acquisition. So he delved into the company’s archives and reinterpreted key classic pieces such as the button-up oxford, rugby shirts, trench coats and corduroy blazers. They complement the sweaters, hoodies, joggers and bombers that have all attracted customers over the holiday season.

For spring, sportswear should continue to be the star. The overall theme for the season is Island Life, inspired by two resort destinations: Nantucket and Palm Beach. Nautical stripes and sailboat prints are found throughout the collection with an embroidered lobster jumper, seersucker tour jacket and sail-patterned shorts among the key pieces.

“It all starts and ends with the product,” Ohashi said. “In many ways Michael brought back what people expected of us and Brooks Brothers is Brooks Brothers again.”

Whether it’s a button-up oxford, a Shetland or Fair Isle jumper, “we reclaimed and made sure they were on trend,” he said. “They all resonated with the customer.”

Other changes include updating the marketing strategy to focus less on print and billboards, and more on digital. A new digital marketing manager is working to make sure all assets are suited that way, he said.

This year, the website will be enhanced to include more features such as online purchase, in-store pickup. Although online commerce was strong, Ohashi said physical stores also rebounded. “We feel good on all channels,” he said. “We are seeing a strong recovery in our retail business, which is core to Brooks Brothers’ business in many ways.”

Additionally, the company is attracting new customers at a record pace. “The company has never seen customer acquisition numbers at this rate,” he said.

Again, Ohashi attributed this to product updates led by Bastian.

“We couldn’t be happier with Michael,” he said. “He captures the brand’s DNA so well and we’ll see that continue into the spring as we refine the fit and fabric. His first collection only came out three months ago, so it’s hard to say. believe that the customer reacts so positively.

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