Not many retailers can say they’ve been around for 50 years, but Lands’ End can, an achievement President and CEO Edgar Huber said is due in part to the pillars the company hasn’t lost sight of in the last half-century: quality, value and service. According to Huber, who has led the retailer since 2011, Lands’ End has always focused on its customers and bringing them the best possible products.
In an ever-changing retail landscape that looks quite different from how it did 50 years ago, Huber said Lands’ End is always seeking out innovations and ways to be the best retailer it can be. I spoke with Huber about what has helped Lands’ End stay relevant over the last half-century, and what plans the company has to remain relevant over the next 50 years.
Obviously, the Lands’ End of 50 years ago was very different from the Lands’ End of today. How has the company changed and evolved over the years to remain a relevant brand over time?
Customer service has been a priority for us from the very beginning, and while many of our product offerings have changed, our values and principles of doing business remain the same. I believe Lands’ End’s true values and unwavering respect for the customer are what continue to set us apart from other brands. We’re an iconic American brand and we’ve grown up alongside many families — many of our customers feel an emotional connection to us — I’d like to see that continue for many years to come.
Additionally, we place a tremendous amount of resources on innovation in design and we are always on the lookout for new materials, techniques and treatments that align with our pillars of value, quality and style, bringing the best possible product to the customer. For example, Lands’ End recently launched “Shape and Enhance” swimwear that utilizes “body mapping” technology to flatter every figure. We also have “iron knee” technology in our Kids’ pants and swim tees that provide UPF 50.
What are the company’s plans to continue to remain relevant over the next 50 years?
Lands’ End has a strong history of innovation — we strive to be the best in the business. We have a proven track record of being able to change with the times while staying true to key elements of our heritage. We are constantly evolving and adapting, making sure that we’re offering the best quality at the best value for our customers while staying relevant to the way they live their lives. We’re proud of where we came from and will continue to honor our past while looking to our future.
One example of this is that we are starting to introduce more fashion-driven items and will continue to build upon our past few seasons where we came out with polka dots and pattern mixing, which are modern and relevant for today’s customer.
For decades, Lands’ End has been known for its iconic canvas tote bags. This year, we are taking one step further with the launch of a line of premium leather accessories. The new line, called the Landmark Collection, offers seven styles of handbags and small leather goods.
We have a big opportunity to go after this category in a new way. Our goal for this collection is to deliver an elevated line of superior quality leather handbags at competitive prices. This launch of the Landmark collection is a testament to the ongoing global growth of the Lands’ End brand. As we expand into new product categories, we will attract new customers as well as exceed our current customers’ expectations.
What kinds of changes have you personally witnessed during your time with the company?
Lands’ End is an exciting brand and there are always new initiatives in motion to move the company forward. When I joined Lands’ End, we outlined five key business initiatives:
- Flawless execution: Continue to offer the best quality at the best value while giving the amazing customer service we are known for
- Lands’ End Outfitters: Continue to grow our corporate apparel program and school uniforms businesses in the United States and internationally
- International: Expand internationally and continue to grow existing countries
- Retail: Improve and expand on the current retail model
- Accessories: Expand and be known for great accessories
The Lands’ End business is solid across all channels and is driven by great product innovation, our strong digital transition and we continue to stay true to our founding values, quality, value and service.
How do those changes fit in with the vision you had for Lands’ End when you first became CEO?
I want Lands’ End to be as relevant 50 years from now as it is today. We will continue to follow through and stay true to the fundamental values that have built the Lands’ End brand — quality, value and service.
How has Lands’ End adapted to today’s omnichannel world, and how does it plan to continue doing so?
The digital transformation started in 2012 and Lands’ End is focused on continuing to make the shopping experience as easy and personalized as possible regardless of how our customers shop — online, direct or in-store. Our team is constantly looking at industry trends and evaluating our customers’ experiences to ensure we are going above and beyond to engage with our customers.
One of our biggest initiatives right now is called “paper to digital.” The main goal of the “paper to digital” initiative is provide every customer with a personalized shopping experience and allow them to shop in the way that best suits their lifestyle.
A large piece of this is a new digital merchandising tool that we recently launched. The tool aggregates search results on landsend.com in a more thoughtful and productive way, allowing us to better engage with our customers and help them navigate the site more seamlessly.
Social and mobile are also an increasingly relevant part of how we communicate with our customers and our goal is to engage with our customers and maximize their digital shopping experience.
And what are the things about Lands’ End that make the brand unique? How have those things continued to appeal to customers over the last half-century?
Lands’ End’s dedication and sincere respect of the customer continues to be a strong differentiator for us. Gary Comer built this brand on the belief that if you take care of the customer and you take care of the employee, the rest will take care of itself. This is something our customers can feel through the quality of products we offer and the fact that we stand behind everything that we make. Customers can return anything at any time for any reason. It’s called Guaranteed.Period.