The secret to breathing new life into old brands | BoF Professional, News and Insights

As Banana Republic embarks on its latest attempt to regain its past glory and reverse a multi-year drop in sales, the brand is taking inspiration from the luxury giants.

“When you see someone in Gucci you know it’s Gucci and when you see Versace you know it’s Versace,” said Ana Andjelic, a fashion marketing veteran and brand manager of Banana Republic since February. “The motivation here was that when you see someone on the street, you know it’s Banana Republic. “

Earlier this week, the longtime Gap-owned retailer launched the second phase of its reinvention. Dubbed “Imaginary Worlds,” the campaign aims to separate Banana Republic from a crowded field of chains selling reasonable, moderately priced clothing to be worn at the office or a night out with friends.

Andjelic described this effort as a “fundamental promise” to always offer customers “a different imagined world” with each major product drop. Its latest collection, called “New Look,” includes tailored jackets and cargo pants in rich neutrals, a nod to the brand’s safari-themed origins. The theme for this holiday season, she added, will be medieval.

Banana Republic’s new look. Banana Republic.

Banana Republic isn’t the only one trying to change her narrative. J.Crew, who came out of bankruptcy about a year ago, recently launched her own new look under the direction of Libby Wadle and Women’s Fashion Director Olympia Gayot, with classics reimagined and a promise to deliver. less frequent. Express began refreshing its product assortment last year and has since closed more than 80 locations as it plans $ 1 billion in online sales. And Victoria’s Secret ditched its angels to benefit a diverse group of celebrity ambassadors.

The four retailers have adopted very different marketing strategies, but below are following a similar game plan: improving product assortment, closing unprofitable stores, reducing promotions, and targeting Gen Z consumers. efforts is not a coincidence, according to experts.

“The pandemic has made change palpable for many of these brands,” said Robert Burke, managing director of retail consulting firm Robert Burke Associates. “It was a great time to look at yourself and make some big, big changes, when it was more difficult when they were training on a daily basis.”

Creating a Banana Republic aesthetic as recognizable as Gucci loafers or a Versace print is a tall order. In favor of Banana Republic, its former status as a creator of culture, particularly in the 1990s, when the brand was known for its elegant work clothes and its “metrosexual” look under the direction of Mickey Drexler, then managing director of Gap .

Since then, sales have stagnated alongside its sister retailer Gap under the umbrella of Gap Inc., although the company has seen a promising recovery this year. Second-quarter sales totaled $ 4.2 billion, up 5% from the same period in 2019. Banana Republic sales, however, were still down 15%. The company announced last October that it would close 130 Banana Republic stores, mostly in malls where traffic has steadily declined.

It’s much harder to find your way around than it is to start as a new brand.

“It’s possible, but it’s also important to recognize that it’s much more difficult to recover than it is to start as a new brand,” said Simeon Siegel, retail analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Balance old customers with new ones

Many people still regularly stop at a J.Crew or Banana Republic to buy button-down shirts or soft chinos. The key to a rebranding is to balance the needs of existing customers while reaching new ones.

Andjelic calls this a ‘party up front, business back side’ approach, in which commercials and social media ads can highlight the strongest and most forward-thinking pieces, but customers can still find their old favorites both online and in stores.

Redefining work clothes

Perhaps the biggest challenge plaguing mall retailers today is the declining demand for traditional workwear. J.Crew, Banana Republic, and Express all specialize in staples to wear to work. With many of their clients working from home, demand has suffered.

To stand out from the office, J.Crew explores athleisure, while Andjelic calls Banana’s new collection “genreless”. Still, shaking up the workwear brand is a long-term project.

“Companies that are seen as laid back, out of the box or preppy have yet to find their place in a world dominated by athletics,” said Siegel. The world may be opening up again, he added, but “comfort doesn’t go away.”

J.Crew  's

J.Crew’s “Make a Scene” campaign. J Crew.

The surrender dilemma

As their cultural cachet waned, mall brands relied on discounts to attract shoppers. Most cut sales during the pandemic, and the biggest test of their rebranding efforts is whether they can maintain this discipline.

Banana Republic, for example, plans to run quarterly sales, up from six a year, according to Andjelic.

Today, manufacturing and shipping delays are reducing inventory across the industry, making it easier for brands to charge full price. The real test will come when the shortages dissipate, likely within the next year, analysts say.

Yet even getting through the pandemic, as well as the past few years of disruption, is a sign of resilience, said Susan Anderson, analyst at B. Riley. After all, online competitors compete for the same market share that mall retailers still dominate today.

“It’s really about sticking to that core, offering good, reasonably priced products that are trendy,” Anderson said. “In other words, do what they do best. They already have so much history and expertise, and a lot more skills than the rising brands. “

Related stories:

In the new look of J.Crew

Can Express be more than a mall brand?

Is this the end of the American mall as we know it?

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