Talbots sits in an enviable position
Talbots started as a preppy, somewhat prissy catalog-er but evolved into a chain that understood the needs of Vibrant Boomer women, especially those who wanted tailored clothes that didn’t seem either frumpy or youth-obsessed. In our recent fashion survey, many respondents called out Talbots as a retailer that meets their expectations.
Not surprisingly, Talbots appears to be a winner among the fast-growing, bigger-spending demographic of Vibrant Boomer women. Visitors to its website skew older (41% are 50+), and with age comes education (76% have undergraduate and/or graduate degrees) and income (43% also have household income over $100,000). Given the growth in this demographic, what could be better?
Is Talbots undoing its success by chasing younger women?
In spite of this enviable customer base, Talbots has made some dramatic mistakes in the last few years. After over-paying for casual fashion retailer J.Jill in 2007 for more than $500 million, Talbots unloaded the brand last year for only $75 million. It has reined in an over-aggressive store expansion and cut costs. And it has hired merchandisers and marketers with experience in building brands that serve younger women.
When I look at Talbots’ recent print ads, catalogs and website, I wonder if the combined effect of these setbacks hasn’t left Talbots scared to embrace the market that could actually keep it growing over the next decade.
I am curious to hear what Vibrant Women and other marketers think, but when I look at Talbots today I see a brand that features only one women 50+ (longtime model Dayle Haddon, who herself reflects everything great about Vibrant Women). Otherwise, the models are young and have figures that most Vibrant Women haven’t seen in 15 years.
Is Talbots right or wrong?
I’m curious what others think about Talbots’ efforts. I’m no Vibrant Woman, but when looking through a recent Talbots catalog I find some consistency in their merchandising that could still resonate for women 50+, but I see many models who are not yet 40 and who still appear to wear sizes like 2 or 4.
Is Talbots successfully making its tried-and-true brand aspirational for women who are both over and under 50? Or is it stretching itself too thin to compete with retailers like the Limited, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic. When I compare the merchandise on these websites, they look more alike than they should, and I wonder if Talbots is missing a distinctive chance to capture the more appealing, and faster-growing, and bigger-spending demographic of Vibrant Women over 50.