Talbots Launches Strategic Plan for Profitability

Hingham, Mass. Beset with cascading comp-store sales, The Talbots Inc. is rethinking its long-term growth strategy. At its 2008 Investor Meeting on Tuesday, the retailer said it is shifting to a design-led focus that will better reflect each brand’s unique identity. Comp sales at the retailer’s core brands, Talbots and J. Jill, declined 5.7% and 4.6% respectively for the fiscal year ended Feb. 2.

Under its new plan, Talbots expects to streamline operations, cut costs and inventories and focus on better merchandise assortments while implementing innovative marketing programs and more efficient business processes. Its key objective is to improve profitability by driving healthier operating margins on moderate sales growth.

Talbots plans to grow its plus-size Talbots Woman format by adding 35 locations during the next five years. It also will introduce a “Boutique” concept with a fuller assortment within its Talbots Misses stores. There will be an increased focus on accessories, which have historically produced strong margins, and the Talbots brand will tighten its shoe assortment to directly complement merchandise.

In addition, the company will pursue a new growth avenue for its namesake brand in the outlet sector, with the projected opening of approximately 40 Talbots Premium Outlets within three years.

Talbots plans to limit expansion of its J. Jill brand until the performance of its existing store network improves, after which it anticipates the potential for expanding the brand with womans, outlet and international concepts.

Across the board, the strategy calls for Talbots to remain focused on leaner inventories, sourcing initiatives and improved product flow. Currently, the company has 1,149 stores operating under the Talbots brand and 273 J. Jill stores.

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