By Brianna Ahearn, contributing writer
Land's End, an American apparel company with its origins in rugged, outdoor clothing, is reinventing itself by hiring a CEO from the world of luxury brands. This month, former CEO Edgar Huber stepped down amid a disappointing fourth quarter performance. In a press release released February 2, 2015, Land's End named Federica Marchionni from luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana its new CEO. Marchionni spent more than a decade as an executive of Dolce & Gabbana USA and was also an executive at Ferrari. Land's End hopes the hire can reverse the company's fortunes as it's spun off from parent company Sears.
“We are delighted that Federica Marchionni is joining Lands' End. She is a multi-talented, visionary business leader with a complete set of creative, strategic and analytical skills to grow a multi-channel apparel brand in a highly competitive and evolving global environment,” says Josephine Linden, the chairman of Lands’ End. “She also fully embraces the principles of quality, value and service on which Gary Comer founded n 1963.”
Land's End was founded in 1963 as a sailboat equipment company. The company eventually expanded into general clothing and accessories. Land's End soon became known for selling clothing, usually by mail order, that is made of natural and high-tech materials. The emphasis was on classic American clothing that is built to last, and now the company is banking on Marchionni's luxury brand experience to help cement Land's End's future.
Sears purchased the company in 2002 for $2 billion in cash, adding Land's End mini-stores to its locations. Shortly after the Sale, Sears merged with K-Mart, becoming Sears Holding Co. Since being acquired by Sears, Land's End struggled to carve out an identity. The typical Land's End consumer has an adventurous lifestyle and prefers preppy clothing. The average Sears customer is less fashion focused and more interested in getting the best value for his money. Their opposing clientele made the Land's End / Sears marriage a tenuous one at best, and the disastrous fourth quarter spelled the end for Huber. In 2013, Sears decided to spin off the company as a standalone business. The separation from Sears did not distinguish the company in the minds of consumers. In Marchionni, Land's End clearly sees a way to reposition itself as a global lifestyle brand.
“She has proven product development, retail and international experience, a tremendous passion for success, and a deep network of relationships across the fashion, consumer and retail landscapes,” says Linden. “We are confident she will build upon the company’s legacy as a classic American brand with a keen eye toward its future as a global lifestyle brand.”
Under Marchionni's leadership, Docle & Gabbana USA increased revenue and repositioned the brand to new channels, customers and geographic areas. It's an experience that should serve her well, especially since Land's End has determined it needs to attract new customers if it is to survive on its own. Land's End operates hundreds of Sears mini-stores in addition to its standalone locations. With fourth quarter earnings falling by more than ten percent, the fate of the Sears mini-stores is unknown.