On December 6th, 2017, three associates came from Lands’ End Corporate Headquarters to speak to the students in Retail Leadership Symposium. Adrienne Bestul, Megan Lazarte, and Richard Swazink shared their knowledge and expertise, the values and goals of their company, and the ways in which students can get involved.
Storied History & Culture Centered on Quality, Value, Service
Lands’ End, what is now a successful apparel company, was founded 54 years ago by Gary Comer, selling sailboat hardware and equipment in Chicago.
In 1964, Comer produced his first catalog selling Lands’ End goods and then continued to expand to more than just sailing gear when there was a demand from his customers for sailing apparel. Throughout the 1970s, the emphasis on clothing permanently shifted from just sailing equipment. With a rapidly evolving product market, they also shifted their operations from Chicago to Dodgeville, WI (where it is now headquartered) because of operations costs along with environment reasons in 1978. As their growth (along with their profits) spread, Lands’ End became a public company in 1987. In recent years, Lands’ End products have become featured in nearly 1000 Sears stores. Now Lands’ Ends has multiple brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. as well as locations in United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. They plan on doubling their store locations by opening up 11 more brick-and-mortar stores in the near future.
The company has undergone many changes and shifts, but since the beginning they have centered the business around three core pillars: Quality, Value, and Service.
“If you’re not satisfied with anything, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price. We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always.”
Land’s End’s guarantee return policy sets them apart from most retailers today, and with that, creates customer loyalty other companies could not possibly compete with. What if you bought a swimsuit from Lands’ End 10 years ago, decided you didn’t want it anymore, and returned it? Yep, sure enough, they would take it back! You’re probably thinking, no way a company would do that. Well, how about this. Fifteen years after a customer purchased an old taxi cab filled with goodies from a catalog special, that same customer wanted to return the cab. Sure enough, adhering to their policy to return absolutely anything, Lands’ End took back the taxi cab, and refunded the customer entirely.
“Take care of the customer, take care of the employee, and the rest will take care of itself”
– Gary Comer
The company culture within Lands’ End exemplifies ideas of acceptance and openness. Lands’ End has had a rich heritage of taking care of employees and by doing so the employees provide extraordinary customer service. The happiness of the customer and the employee are not the only priorities at this company, Lands’ End also strives to implement values and practices of sustainability into their business. By making a clear effort to use their resources responsibly, Lands’ End is able to minimize their carbon footprint and help the environment while they help their shoppers.
Reinventing the way American style appeals to millennials. Lands’ End has a long-standing place in many baby boomers and older generations hearts, but what about the new generations? Where is their love? Lands’ End realizes that they have some changes they need to make in terms of marketing techniques and reinvention to some of their even classic pieces to keep up with the ever-changing retail industry. However, their ability to stay true to their values and identity is more than admirable. So, this begs the question, what can Lands’ End do to market themselves to attract millennial consumers, but not sacrifice their identity and core values? Millennials love technology, but they also love unique pieces that are individualistic. By incorporating pieces that reflect vintage all American styles into their product mix, could generate attention from younger generations.
Lands’ End is doing many things well, which is reflected in their international success. LE was always ahead of the curve in terms of technology catering to customers’ needs. LE showed this with implementing convenient and innovative methods like 24/7 phone ordering, accepting credit card payments, providing two-day shipping, creating an e-commerce site and now offering text message communication for customers. Lands’ End seems to really stand by their three core pillars: quality, value and service. This is also shown through their generous return policy – LE is confident in their products and strive to build trust and create loyal customers. In addition, LE hopes to keep their top-quality standards while maintaining competitive with other retailers.
UW-Madison & Lands’ End
Lands’ End has a multitude of opportunities for students to get involved. They are always seeking new talent from their student internship, to their case competition and everything in between. As an intern, a student would get hands on experience in a specific field of interest, engage with fellow interns, and learn from a few top executives such as the CEO of Lands’ End.
Additionally, students are able to participate in a case competition in which they are able to work together and “problem solve” for the company. For example, a recent case study that was offered in partnership with the Kohl’s Center for Retailing dealt with how to make the dressing room a better experience because after all, it is where most of the decision making happens and where the conversion rates are the highest. By the end of the competition, students researched, collaborated, and designed an “ideal” fitting room for Lands’ End’s new stores. Through their case competition, student internship, and other opportunities in the work field, Lands’ End provides many ways students can get involved and learn about the retail industry as a whole.
As students in this course, we are constantly amazed when hearing information from different retailers. Learning about your many locations including countries such as Japan and Germany, it is amazing to see the large growth. Another element that stuck out to us was learning that Lands’ End was in fact the first company to be able to call an 800 number and place the call on the phone. It is truly something to see how a company strengthens over time.
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