Most retailers are stumbling to stay relevant while courting younger shoppers, Millennials and Generation Z. It’s not the end of the earth.
As it strives to grow its customer base, Lands’ End is bucking the trend by deliberately embracing the “forgotten generation,” Gen Xers.
They are the generation of consumers sandwiched between the Baby Boomers, born in the years after World War II, and their children, the millennials, the earliest of whom were born in the 1980s.
“There was a strategy at a certain point where we were going to bring in millennials,” Lands End CEO Jerome Griffith, who is retiring at the end of January, told the ICR conference last week. “It didn’t fly with our customers.”
In the rush to attract the attention of younger consumers, the retailer stumbled and made fashion mistakes. Sales fell as the bulk of older shoppers were put off by the stylish dresses and high-heeled shoes that appeared next to the comfortable clothes embraced by moms and dads.
“So we said, you know what, we have this neat generation of buyers right behind the baby boomers, Generation X. While we go looking for new consumers, we go after them,” he said.
With Gen Z and millennial consumers expected to grow to 70% of the population by 2028, up from 60% in 2021 – and they have considerable purchasing power – it’s no surprise that retailers are chasing this customer group.
“While Gen Z and Millennials are lucrative and interesting, there is something of an obsession with them in retail and fashion that is often at the expense of older generations,” said Neil Saunders, retail industry analyst and director of GlobalData.
“It’s true that more mature groups make up a lot of retail spend and there’s a significant opportunity that’s not always being addressed in the right way,” he said.
Lands’ End, a 60-year-old brand based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, is best known for its classic durable casual wear—fleece jackets, coats, pullovers, T-shirts, chinos, and pajamas—that are designed more for comfort than footwear. trend. It sells its products through the mail, online, in stores, and through third-party marketplaces such as Amazon ( AMZN ) and Kohl’s ( KSS ).
But the company says it knows who its main customers are.
“She’s a baby boomer, in her mid-50s, lives in the suburbs, works, is frugal, has a household income of more than $100,000 a year and has or had children at home,” Griffith said.
About six years ago, the database of its core customers, who typically stayed with the brand for 18 years, was shrinking. “We were losing customers,” he said.
“It’s very rare in retail that a customer stays with your brand for that long,” said Andrew McLean, the company’s new CEO.
Griffith said the company tried to skew younger. “What you want to do as a retailer is keep your customer base the same age or bring in younger people,” he said. Distorting the younger ones didn’t work, he said.
But we’re going in the opposite direction in age demographics.
“When we’re looking for new customers, we really look at their buying habits and where they shop,” Griffith said. “That’s why we expanded to Amazon, Kohl’s and Target. These new clients come through these markets,”
He said 75% of new customers who found the brand in third-party marketplaces “either never shopped at Lands’ End or were lapsed customers and hadn’t shopped at Lands’ End in five years.”
“So we’re bringing in a new customer who is actually the same customer, but 10 years younger. They are Generation X,” he said, adding that Gen X customers have shown the same long-term brand loyalty as Baby Boomers.
Saunders said Gen X is a good fit for Lands’ End “because their brand is much more tailored to that generation… It’s not the most modern, but it’s not unfashionable either. And there are also plenty of practical yet modern pieces that are suitable for the lifestyles that many Gen Xers now lead.”
“I would be more concerned if Land’s End said it was going to reinvent itself as a younger brand than if it said it was focusing on what should be its core market,” Saunders said.