A Chat With Beth Guastella, giggle’s New President and COO, Part 1
I had the opportunity to chat recently with Beth Guastella, the recently named president and chief operating officer of giggle, an omnichannel specialty retailer of upscale baby products and resources.
Guastella has more than 20 years of leadership experience in retail, merchandising, operations, and P&L management, and has worked for brands such as Calypso St. Barth, Stuart Weitzman, kate spade new york, Montblanc and Hermes. She comes to giggle from Cole Haan, where she was vice president, direct to consumer. In her new role, Guastella is responsible for giggle's day-to-day operations and oversees the brand's retail stores, direct channels, merchandising and finance.
In part one of this two-part blog post, we discuss what attracted Guastella to giggle; what specialty retail is; and how giggle’s catalog business works. Check out my blog tomorrow for part two of this interview, in which we discuss giggle’s digital business, its partnership with J.C. Penney, and Beth’s tips for being a successful omnichannel merchant this year and going forward.
Melissa Campanelli: What attracted you to giggle?
Beth Guastella: giggle was interesting to me because of the strength and clarity of the brand. When we think about giggle and its purpose in life, it's a very strong brand. I think Ali [giggle's founder and CEO Ali Wing] has done a great job in building that brand equity. From a business and overall brand concept, giggle serves a very unique position in the marketplace and a very specific consumer. As a result, when I look at what giggle is today, I think the business becomes very scalable for the future.
From my perspective, it’s far more difficult and complicated to take a big business and try to build a strong brand around it. Whereas right now, giggle has a lot of strength in its brand. When you have the strengths of the brand, you can then build that business around the brand.
My work here reminds me very much of my early days at Kate Spade. When I first joined it was an itty-bitty company, but Kate and Andy [Spade, founders of kate spade new york] did a great job of creating brand equity, and because of that brand strength they’ve been able to grow the brand in a very meaningful way.
In addition, even though my background isn't necessarily in baby, it is in specialty retail, and that’s exactly what giggle is and how it serves the marketplace. giggle is a specialty retailer that offers a very edited and curated “best of” assortment, and that’s very representative of the brands I’ve worked for in the past. What’s more, all of the businesses I've worked for in the past have had very complex, multichannel operations, and a lot of those key learnings and experiences can very much be applied to giggle as well.
MC: You defined giggle as a specialty retailer. Can you explain what the term specialty retailer means to you?
BG: Back in the day, Neiman Marcus said it wasn't a department store. It called itself a specialty retailer. For me, a specialty retailer is defined by the assortment — the products it carries — and the markets it serves. So for giggle, we're not the buybuy BABY or Babies“R”Us in the marketplace that serves a mass; we serve a specific segment of the consumer base and have a special product offering. Also, I think specialty retail is about the level of service and the overall experience of a brand, as well as how consumers interact with the brand.
MC: Can you discuss giggle’s direct-to-consumer sales channels?
BG: For giggle, our direct-to-consumer channels include e-commerce and our catalog. Our catalog business is very strong and will continue to be an important component of our direct business, but right now our primary focus is on growing the digital/e-commerce portion of our business. But really, both of those are very complementary of one another so they'll both remain a primary focus for future growth.
Also, we'll continue to grow our catalog business, but it will grow proportionally as the overall business grows. Right now we're not looking to expand our catalog growth at a faster rate than the overall company growth.
MC: Do you consider your catalogs to be an acquisition or retention tool?
BG: Primarily, in the most recent past our catalogs have been used for acquisition. But you have the greatest opportunity to have a customer return within 60 days to 90 days of their first purchase. So with that thought in mind, we're looking at how we can use our fantastic catalogs to increase the productivity and profitability of our existing consumer base.
However, for our business model, the acquisition component is critically important. In a lot of retail businesses, you can hold onto that consumer for many years. For our consumer base — the expectant and new parent — you have them for a more finite period of time. So the acquisition component of our business is critically important in making sure that we keep our pipeline full.
Check back tomorrow for part two of this interview!