The following post is an abstract of a Wall Street Journal article titled, Once a Bellwether, Ann Taylor Fights Its Stody Image.
[article link (sub. req’d.) | July 12, 2005]
What happens when a little sister brand supplants the older sister brand? That’s the situation the venerable Ann Taylor brand is dealing with as its rising little sister brand, Ann Taylor Loft, gains momentum.
The 10 year-old Ann Taylor Loft brand, a moderately price casual chic woman’s wear label, now outsells the 51 year-old more conservative and higher-priced Ann Taylor brand. Sales last year at Ann Taylor Loft grew 40% while sales at Ann Taylor declined 1.5%. And in 2005, Ann Taylor Loft plans to have 400 stores open, far eclipsing the 359 Ann Taylor locations.
The strategy behind introducing the Ann Taylor Loft line was to keep the Ann Taylor name relevant by capitalizing on the casual fashion age which emerged in the mid-90s. Now the founding, older sister brand is in danger of becoming irrelevant.
To arrest the sales decline at Ann Taylor, the company has hunkered down and refined who the Ann Taylor customer is. The company’s marketing and merchandising teams have created an Ann Taylor persona, a richly articulated description of the prototypical Ann Taylor customer. Every marketing and merchandising decision at the company is now made based upon the Ann Taylor persona, appropriately named … Ann.
Ann is a married 36 year-old working mother of two children with a household income of $150K. She leads a busy, sophisticated life and her idea of dressing down at work is wearing a velvet jacket with jeans.
In comparison, the Ann Taylor Loft customer is a married thirtysomething with children, works in a laid-back less corporate environment, and has a household income between $75K and $100K.
At a recent catalog photo shoot for the two brands, the difference between the older sister brand and younger sister brand was quite apparent. The backdrop for the Ann Taylor catalog was the upscale and opulent Breakers Hotel in Palm Springs, FL. While the Ann Taylor Loft catalog was shot on a beach in Jamacia with simple and sparse props.
Sales at older sister Ann Taylor have yet to rise significantly, but hopes are high following strong sales in June.