Blog: Leonie BarrieTalbots in turmoil

Leonie Barrie | 8 January 2008

Talbots is taking steps away from two concepts – its children's and men's apparel stores – which have failed to resonate with its core middle-aged female customers. But with warnings that fourth-quarter sales have fallen below expectations at its remaining Talbots and J Jill stores, it seems unlikely the retailer will be able to pull itself together anytime soon.

According to the company, Talbots Mens or Talbots Kids don't “demonstrate the potential to deliver acceptable long-term return on investment.” Instead, Talbots wants to focus on its core brands where it believes there is “significant opportunity for profitable growth.”

The retailer has been battered in recent quarters by higher levels of inventories – and heavy markdowns to clear unsold merchandise. But while analysts believe the new strategy – which is among the first major moves made by CEO Trudy Sullivan, who took the helm in August – is sound in principle, creating a more appealing assortment will be more difficult to put into practice. Shoppers have become more cost-conscious, women over 35 are turning to more trendy fashions and there is more competition from department stores in this niche. 

And crucially, all this will take time to put in place as expenses associated with the closures continue to take their toll (including annual revenue cuts of about $100m).

US: The Talbots drops 5% of workforce in concept cutback


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