I thought I was done with this topic, but no b-school case study is complete until the student has proposed solutions. I’ve got three.
1. New management. I realize political and religious tests are popular in certain quarters, but I don’t hold with that for a moment. If Frederica Marchionni is capable of leading an American retailer, by all means keep her on. It appears she’s generated massive mistrust from all quarters, and that she lacks either a grasp of her customer base or a grasp of how to manage her staff. If that can be fixed without anyone falling on their sword, all the better. If it can’t, new regime.
2. Deal with the quality problems. Land’s End trades on value. The longstanding customer concerns about poor quality, inconsistent sizing, and other problems have got to be dealt with openly and definitively. No one will pay a premium for an unreliable product. The desperate attempts to give the brand a makeover are no good if customers don’t trust the merchandise.
Given the current quality problems, consider trying to rebuild trust by offering a free-shipping-and-returns option. To benchmark: L.L. Bean does this via their store-brand Visa card — if you use the card, you get the free shipping both ways. No doubt Land’s End can think up some similar scheme that lets the company favor regular customers with confidence that the products are good enough there won’t be a need to make a return anyway.
3. Unmuddy the brands. In the latest amusing new venture, we learn the company’s coming out with a designer collection — and they warn us they’ll be using a separate sizing chart for those clothes. Cut this out. I approve of the new collection (not gonna wear it, but people like shiny, that’s cool), but for goodness sake quit generating seventeen different types of products and throwing them all into the same laundry basket.
I know you think you’ve been doing this, but you haven’t. You have not.
I’m not inside the company. I don’t know how bad things are. Maybe no amount of fixing the customer experience can salvage the place. But if the firm is able to continue as a going concern, these are the areas I see that need to be dealt with ASAP. Best of luck to you in the process.