What is happening at New York’s Lord & Taylor, if it works, will be great news for the future of the American department store, which is in a mess. The company, bought from Federated/Macy’s by Purchase, N.Y.-based NRDC Equity is in the middle of a turnaround. NRDC seems to be doing the right things; take a peek at their website Press Room. A few observations:
- The company is investing in advertising. Not coupons (which May Company was famous for), but strong, photography-based image making to the tune of $10 million. Click here to see it. The David Lipman advertising, is, frankly, gorgeous, and it is a change in philosophy for American fashion. In the Mario Testino photos, the people are clean cut, the settings are handsome, and there is no dark undertone or irony. Nothing like putting an old wooden canoe in the vintage Mercedes convertible? It’s Abercrombie without porn. If this doesn’t work for Lord & Taylor’s core customer, then America’s Upper Middle Class is finished. But of course, it will.
- Sadly, Lord & Taylor has had to close locations, and press reports have it downsizing in Manhattan. That’s too bad, but management needs to be focused focused focused in a turnaround situation. Right-sizing is good. In the mid 20th century, Lord & Taylor was a store that you traveled TO. It wasn’t in every mall.
- They are working with GE to revamp their credit card program.
- They are getting Page Six-type press in New York.
- They have made Joseph Abboud the director of menswear and booted out many big fashion brands. This is important. When department stores all look the same with big Nautica displays, they lose their power to differentiate themselves and push their own look. This is a bit risky, but in the long term, taking a “fashion approach” to this department stores will help brand Lord & Taylor.
- They seem to be channeling Dorothy Shaver, and mentioned this Lord & Taylor executive in a recent press release on the bringing in of new fashion talent. This is the difference between other department stores and Lord & Taylor. Other stores are bringing in big names that aren’t fashion forward such as Donald Trump and Martha Stewart. Lord & Taylor knows that IT has the power to create fashion brands itself.
If Saks is about pure luxury, Lord & Taylor is about classic Americana. We wish NRDC and Lord & Taylor well. All of this is still a challenge, and sometimes these things take longer than first imagined. But it’s worth it, saving America’s oldest department store.