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Survive or Thrive: How Iconic Brands are Adapting to Customer Demands

Adapt /əˈdapt/ - verb

Gerund or present participle: adapting

Definition: Make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

Used in a sentence? Brick and mortar locations must adapt to the fast-paced, modern world to ensure continued support from the consumer.

We invite you to take a moment to reflect on the incredible shifts that have taken place over the last decade in the retail and consumer goods industry. Reminisce on Saturday mornings swiftly walking through your local mall, dropping in to each store to catch a deal with your poorly-cut out coupons from the Sunday paper. Now, fast-forward to today: cell phone in hand, online shopping cart, only “4:56” until your promotional code expires, flash sale, get a monthly subscription box and save 20%!

Phew, that was a whirlwind. This vast transformation is a result of the new and agile technological advancements that have taken the world by storm. The rapid changeover has done a number on some of the world’s most iconic brands but has also offered opportunity for growth and reclaimed glory for some, too. We narrow the present-day opportunities down to a core business decision: As a company are you willing to take a chance on your consumer through advancing with the times, or will you stay in your comfort zone and hope your consumers will stick around?

All Aboard the Struggle Bus

Survive /sərˈvīv/ - verb

Definition: continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.

Used in a sentence: Some companies are just surviving in today’s post-strip mall world.

As fashion trends continue to change, we’ve seen a lot of brands fail to survive. It may come as a surprise though, that stores like Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney, and Gap fall among stores that could not withstand the test of time.

Once a popular lingerie and yoga pants store for teenage girls and younger women is no longer that. Victoria’s Secret has lost over 3.8 million customers since 2017, with stocks dropping more than 40% in the past year alone. The biggest reason for their decline doesn’t come as a shock for most - they simply aren’t catering to the demands of their customers. In a self-accepting decade where women are encouraged to be body positive, Victoria’s Secret has stuck to their roots of airbrushed models and push ups. Women are asking for newer, modern products and the brand has repeatedly failed to deliver.

Instead, consumers are directing their purchases to fashion lines with more body positive messaging like ThirdLove, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, and even Aerie by American Eagle. Because of Victoria’s Secret’s reluctance to change their products and image, they will close 53 stores in 2019.

Suffering the same fate as Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney also took a hit during the fourth quarter, losing 4% of sales. Although their struggle isn’t necessarily a new one (they’ve been trying to reclaim their popularity status from discount retailers since 2006), they haven’t been able to recover profit in over a decade.

When former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson took over as JCPenny chief executive, he completely changed their entire business model, targeting marketing efforts at wealthy shoppers instead of their actual demographic - the low and middle-income consumers. Without any insight on their customer base, Johnson got rid of JCPenney’s coupons and changed the logo to create more of a “best-in-class” brand. In 2012, sales plunged $4.3 billion.

Penney’s would continue to lose sight of their target audience, continuously changing direction until they no longer had anywhere else to go. Without a CEO and no clear vision of their brand, the future does not look good for JCPenney.

Know your Customer then Serve your Customer

Thrive /THrīv/ - verb

Definition: to grow or develop well or vigorously, to prosper and flourish

Used in a sentence: Consumer brands are thriving on consumer trends and the successful model that Amazon has brought to the present-day economy.

Stylish, trendy shoewear isn’t enough to draw people into DSW anymore. Shoes are one of the only products in the apparel family that run pretty true-to-size across the board. Unlike pants, especially for women, where each brick-and-mortar boutique offers sizing inconsistencies. Take, for example, this trend from a few years back, where women showed the size variations in pants across different apparel brands. So, when online shoe havens like Zappos [Amazon-owned] and JustFab [Subscription-based] began to take DSW consumers by storm, CEO Roger Rawlins knew something had to change. In order to entice women to shop, the store tested out two nail salons in Ohio. They found that women who were going to get routine nail maintenance, were staying to make shoe purchases in the store.

DSW also created a new loyalty program that gives members exclusive promotions and events - putting them up against their subscription-based competitors. With the loyalty program, they are able to get better insight of their customers and know how they like to spend money. This allows DSW to better tailor promotions and trends to their target market.

Identifying how consumers purchase is a big step for brands that last.

Back in 2012, it was almost over for Best Buy. Not only did they have personal issues with their CEO at the time, they were beginning to lose business to the king of internet sales and competitive pricing, Amazon. When Hubert Joly took over as CEO in 2012, he invested in his people and encouraged his employees to be authentic. It no longer was about the number of sales in a day, but how educated and helpful Best Buy employees were. After all, happy employees make happy customers. In order to better serve the customer, Joly partnered with large brands to showcase their products so customers had options to test electronics before investing in the purchase.

In order to continue competing with Amazon, Joly installed the practice of “price-matching,” which allowed Best Buy to make sales comparable to Amazon’s price slashes.

To ensure the customers are being served properly, Best Buy also started an In Home Advisor program, where consultants are sent to customers homes to help them make decisions on what to purchase. These advisors are paid a salary and are instructed to not get discouraged when they don’t make a sale right away. In fact, their main mission is to foster a relationship with the person that they’re consulting, making sure to provide them with honest information about what products they may need, so that their consultees become lifelong customers.

Overall, complacency in rising changes is an easy but ineffective choice for your business. If you want continued success, you MUST adapt to the times.


It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


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