When I first started at Ralph Lauren in 2015, sales were mediocre for Lauren. The UK wasn’t doing as well as Germany or France and no one really knew why. Margins were eroding, profitability was down and excess inventory was piling up. These things were not good for business and I had to get to the bottom of what was going on in the stores.
Peter Jones at Sloane Square was on my way to the Mayfair office so I was there weekly. No excuses not to visit! Moreover, staring at an Excel spreadsheet or an EDI spit out of sales and returns doesn’t provide the valuable context that I needed to obtain in person.
Just showing up on the floor without a plan wasn’t useful. Rather, I used my visits to validate buying decisions, get real-time feedback from the customer if they liked a product, or get immediate information if a customer made a return. For example, I learned that the elbow sleeve length was something the customer loved. If the sleeve was an inch too short, they wouldn’t buy it.
Brand ambassadors provided insights into what sold well and where more open-to-buy was needed. If they saw a silhouette selling really well at Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, or Theory, we would quickly figure out why it was selling. Then, I ensured that global merchandising considered it for future seasons.
These insights were valuable as I was able to localize the assortment across various stores. I could be proactive and impact my future buys vs. being reactive with markdown activity. Further, my brand ambassadors and visual merchandising team knew what to look for in terms of customer feedback because they walked the floor with me. I involved them when I picked colors and prints as they were closest to the customer.
I knew my stores, my brand ambassadors, and my customers.
The result? My Peter Jones corner quickly became the best-selling corner in the UK for Lauren.