Blair Corp.’s Nandkeolyar Serves Up 2009 Survival Tactics
Blair Corp., a budget-priced apparel marketer for mature consumers, has a lengthy history in traditional direct mail and catalog. At the eTail Conference in Baltimore this morning, this unit of conglomerate Orchard Brands rolled out its new president/CEO, Shelley Nandkeolyar, who discussed his take on Blair’s approach to the economic downturn.
Nandkeolyar, who has an extensive background in e-commerce in past stints with sister Orchard Brands unit Norm Thompson Outfitters, The Home Depot and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, didn’t focus much on how he intends to inject more of an online emphasis to Blair, but he shared the following thoughts and recommendations on dealing with the times.
On Price Competition:
“There’s a heightened sense of price elasticity, and we’re finding that no offer you can put out there can’t be beat,” Nandkeolyar said. “So every day we look to make our offer more meaningful. It seems like no price is too low for consumers, and it changes the game every day.”
With that in mind, Blair is focused on optimizing margin without “giving money away.” It’s also trying to renegotiate better terms with vendors. And when it comes to liquidation and clearance prices, “if we don’t manage them carefully, we can lose a lot of money,” he advised. “So do it quickly and effectively to get as much profitability as possible.”
Blair is looking at improving profitability with its core customers. It’s exploring what kind of frequency of response it can get and the amount of money its core customers are spending this year. “That’s an indicator of what the core customer is doing,” he said. “And with this information, you can think about your performance for the next three to six months.”
Nandkeolyar considers this to be the best and worst time for innovation. While Blair is working on several different initiatives that “are pretty innovative,” it’s also scaling back on others to limit risks on launches and make sure none of its mainline businesses are put at risk.
Still, Blair’s intent is to “keep doing things, fine-tune strategies and roll them out,” Nandkeolyar said. “You don’t want to lose that time and opportunity because the market is flat.”
Concluding his presentation, Nandkeolyar provided the following takeaways:
- Focus on core customers by increasing frequency of contact with them. “Reaching your best customers one more time gives you more opportunity, and that’s a definite home run.”
- Next best priority is customer reactivation.
- Don’t give up on prospecting.