Hudson’s Bay president shares her vision for iconic brand’s future

Hudson's Bay president Liz Rodbell shared her vision for the brand at Retail Council of Canada conference

A steady influx of new players to the Canadian retail market, a shift towards luxury spending and a rise in the fashion savvy millennial has Hudson’s Bay responding with a three-point strategy that its president says will “delight our customers today, but create excitement for tomorrow.”

During her keynote presentation at the Retail Council of Canada‘s Store Conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Liz Rodbell, who was appointed president of Hudson’s Bay nearly a year ago, laid out the iconic retailer’s game plan.

She said Hudson’s Bay would increase its investment in digital, lead in the fashion space with exclusive brands and create events to help redefine the department store experience.

At the centre of these decisions is the fashion forward female millennial, the fastest growing demographic in Canada, said Rodbell. Millenials, she said, would make up 40% of the Canadian population by 2015.

“What’s exciting is that we’re attracting younger, style savvy millenials for exclusive on trend designs and they stay to check out the merchandise throughout the rest of the store,” she said.

When making specific reference to the Hudson’s Bay consumer, Rodbell often referred to “Victoria” – a prototypical millennial shopper who recently landed her first job and uses her smartphone to stay connected with family and friends.

With an increased focus on digital, Victoria will have the ability to quickly and easily check out in-store and online, and when she visits the retailer’s website or Facebook page, she’ll be met with fresh content that is entertaining, keeps her on the site longer and entices her to shop.

To address digital, Rodbell put in place a team that oversees ecommerce, online assets and digital marketing for all three HBC-owned banners: Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay.

“We will become as powerful in digital marketing as we are with our existing channels. Yes we will use radio and print, but we are shifting budget to digital marketing,” said Rodbell. “We need to be there to engage on any device as customers migrate online.”

“We will also expand our email program to create personalized innovative content to each of our customer segments – delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time,” she added.

Branded content and social are also important ways for Hudson’s Bay to amplify its reach. Rodbell cited the success of Project Adventurer, an online series that documented four twenty-something men as they embarked on a 49-city tour in a branded RV, as an example of the new ways consumers are experiencing Hudson’s Bay digitally. She also announced an upcoming partnership with Elle Canada for a series of fashion-focused videos that will live online.

A large part of the digital strategy is also improving the shopping experience, she said. Hudson’s Bay is dramatically growing its online assortment to offer more sizes, colours and products. The Men’s Big and Tall portion of its website is one example of how Hudson’s Bay is doing this, she said.

Just as digital is important, so to is the in-store experience. “Despite all the talk about digital or that our customers are more wired then ever stores still do matter,” said Rodbell, which is why the retailer is creating memorable in-store experiences “to delight and entertain our customers” like when Justin Timberlake was in town to promote his line of jeans.

“There’s nothing like the social experience of shopping with your friend,” she said. “To keep consumers coming back we need the most beautiful and engaging environment they want to shop in, we need to deliver entertaining must attend events that will drive traffic [and] we need to ensure associates deliver a remarkable experience so consumers know just how important they are.”

Last year Hudson’s Bay launched the “Just Ask Us” program that allows sales assistance to better serve consumers in-store. For instance, if Victoria finds a pair of shoes in blue, but really wanted them in black, a sales associate will search for her shoe and have it sent to Victoria’s house. Hudson’s Bay is testing a buy online, pick up in-store option on its site.

Once seen as a destination for towels and toasters,Hudson’s Bayhas earned its fashion cred with young, savvy female consumers thanks to the introduction of such brands as Topshop and will continue to build on its reputation as a fashion destination by nurturing and building pillar brands, emerging brands and maximizing its exclusive products and brands.

Rodbell closed the first day of the Store 2014 conference with a promise to consumers to keep Hudson’s Bay fashionable and relevant. “It’s not lost on me the enormous privilege I have to make sure this brand remains authentic today and in the future,” she said. “Everyone knows Hudson’s Bay because… our iconic stripes are appreciated around the world. I’m very proud we’re delivering on a legend.”​

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