Most retailers are struggling to appeal to younger millennial and Gen Z shoppers to stay relevant. Not the ends of the earth.
In order to expand its customer base, Lands’ End is bucking the trend and intends to embrace the “forgotten generation” Generation X.
They are a generation of consumers sandwiched between baby boomers, Born in the post-World War II era, their children are millennials, first born in the 1980s.
Lands’ End chief executive Jerome Griffith, who will retire at the end of January, told an ICR conference last week: “We had a strategy at a certain point where we would introduce thousands of Millennials.” “It didn’t fly with our customers.”
In an attempt to grab the attention of younger shoppers, the retailer staggered into fashion mistakes. Sales plummeted as its core elderly shoppers were put off by sleek dresses and high-heeled party shoes next to the cozy clothing mums and dads cuddle with.
“So we said, you know what, we have Gen X customers who are baby boomers and Gen X. If we go out and find new consumers, let’s go find them,” he said.
Given that the number of Gen Z and millennial shoppers will grow to 70% of the population by 2028, up from 60% in 2021 – and they have considerable spending power – retailers are going after these shoppers No wonder.
“While Gen Z and millennials are money-making and fun, the retail and fashion world’s obsession with them is often to the detriment of older generations,” said Neil Saunders, retail industry analyst and managing director of GlobalData.
“The fact is that the more mature demographic accounts for a lot of retail spending and there’s a significant opportunity that’s not always being properly addressed,” he said.
Lands’ End, a 60-year-old brand based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, is known for its classic and timeless casual apparel—shearling jackets, coats, pullovers, T-shirts, chinos, and pajamas— — Its design is more for comfort than wearing trend. It sells its products through mail order, online, in brick-and-mortar stores, and through third-party marketplaces such as Amazon (AMZN) and Kohl’s (KSS).
But the company says it knows who its core customers are.
“She’s a baby boomer, 50-something, suburban, working, frugal, with a household income well over $100,000 a year, with kids,” Griffiths said.
About six years ago, the database of core shoppers who typically stayed with the brand for 18 years was shrinking. “We’re losing customers,” he said.
“It’s very rare in retail to get customers to stick with your brand for a long time,” said Andrew McLean, the company’s incoming chief executive.
Griffiths said the company is trying to get younger. “What you have to do as a retailer is either keep your customer base in the same age group or bring in younger people,” he said. Being younger doesn’t work, he said.
But it goes the other way when it comes to population age.
“When we’re looking for new customers, we really look at their buying habits and where they’re shopping,” Griffiths said. “That’s why we expanded into Amazon, Kohl’s and Target. These new customers come in through those marketplaces,”
He said 75 percent of new customers who discovered the brand in third-party marketplaces “either had never shopped at Lands’ End or were lost customers and hadn’t shopped at Lands’ End in five years.”
“So we brought in a new customer, actually the same customer, but 10 years younger. They were Gen X,” he said, adding that Gen X shoppers have the same long-term brand loyalty as baby boomers.
Saunders says Gen X is a great fit for Lands’ End, “because their brand fits that generation better…it’s not the trendiest, but it’s not unfashionable either. There’s also a lot of utilitarian but stylish pieces that suit a lot of Gen X the way we live now.”
“I’d be more concerned if Land’s End said it was reinventing itself as a young brand rather than saying it was focusing on its core market,” Saunders said.