November 26, 2008

Charming Shoppes Shuts Down The Lane Bryant Catalog

One of our loyal subscribers forwards us this press release from Charming Shoppes.

The press release speaks of the end of the Lane Bryant Catalog and associated severance charges.

But keep on reading! The press release gives an assessment of the cash situation at Charming Shoppes, assuming different levels of 2009 (fiscal 2010) comp store sales performance. The press release also talks about a strategy change in merchandising, to private-label merchandise that delivers a better gross margin.

Critics might chastise this business, focusing on prior mis-steps. Until you've sat at an Executive table at a business that is trying to dig out out trouble during less-than-optimal times, you might not be able to appreciate the tension that exists. The press release talks about the sensitivity analysis they ran. Each day you look at your "flash sales report". A minus eighteen comp gives you an ulcer. A minus three percent comp gives you hope. You go through that kind of stress every day at 7:00am.

I'm sure there will be those who are critical of yet another retailer dumping the catalog marketing channel. Maybe, just maybe, the critics should take notice of what is becoming more than a trend. We know from Zip Code Forensics that retail is an urban/suburban channel. We know that cataloging is a exurban/rural channel. It shouldn't be a surprise that retailers are abandoning catalog marketing, that they are finding it unprofitable in an age where all the information exists online.

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