Laura Shoppe has big plans to win back customers following its emergence from creditor protection last month.
The Montreal-based retailer, which operates 140 stores under the Laura and Melanie Lyne banners, experienced losses in 2012 and 2013 due to a change in merchandise direction. That included more basic styling and increasing overseas production with vendors that were not yet proven to be reliable, said Laura’s senior vice-president, Josh Fisher.
“Often retailers struggle when they lose focus on their core customers, and that’s what happened to us,” said Fisher. “We’ve reversed the merchandising changes that alienated our core customers [and they] reacted well to the changes in 2014 and 2015.”
This year, the company is rolling out new concept stores for both the Laura and Melanie Lyne brands.
The Laura stores will have a residential feel, with soft tones and textures to make customers feel relaxed and welcome, said Fisher. There’s also a new layout for its three fit collections, including petites and plus-sized. “Previously, the plus assortment was featured in the back of the store, and we’ve brought it forward,” said Fisher.
Meanwhile, the new Melanie Lyne concept “allows the product to take centre stage, in a chic, bright, modern shopping environment that evokes our customers dream closet,” said Fisher. Among the details are a statement chandelier, black and white recessed niches for a boutique feel, and touches of gold throughout the store.
The company is also enhancing the appointment shopping experience for both brands with VIP fitting rooms and lounge areas.
Callison‘s New York office developed the new concepts for Laura and Melanie Lyne. Laura Shoppe is working with Montreal-based Loda Design on the rollout.
This month, construction begins on new Laura stores at CF Sherway Gardens in Toronto and CF Masonville Place in London, Ont. The company is also opening a new-concept Laura Plus store at CF Polo Park in Winnipeg, and is renovating its Laura store at CF Chinook Centre in Calgary.
In the spring, new Melanie Lyne stores will open at CF Masonville Place and CF Markville in Markham, Ont. Fisher said the company was working on a plan to retrofit additional stores this fall.
Laura Shoppe is also making improvements on the ecommerce front. Currently, customers can return merchandise in stores, check in-store inventory (Laura only), and get items shipped directly from stores.
“We’re looking to enhance the automation of these features and add the option for our customers to shop online and pick up in store,” said Fisher.
This spring, Laura is planning to implement a comprehensive social media strategy to build on its community of loyal customers and benefit from word-of-mouth advertising, said Fisher. “We also will be looking at our mobile strategy, investing more in digital marketing in 2016, and adding suggestive selling functionality that will mimic the in-store experience.”