Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Talbot's is Destined to Fail.

For those of you who have no contact at all with females, Talbot's is an upscale women's clothing retailer that markets a "classic" look through stores and on-line.

Very tasteful. Very elegant. Very much in trouble in today's marketplace.

A report in today's Boston Globe cites yet another decline in third quarter sales at Talbot's, which is especially damaging leading into the critical holiday shopping season. In response to this news, Talbot's president Trudy Sullivan took the bold step of suspending all advertising immediately.

Huh? People are not coming into your stores or shopping you on-line, and your bright idea to fix the situation is to pull your head in like a turtle ducking into its shell? Sorry, Trudy, but that is not enlightened leadership.  As cookie baron Wally Amos once said, "Cutting advertising to save money is like slashing your wrists to relieve high blood pressure."

If the only expense remaining to be slashed is marketing and advertising, your company is beyond saving. Call Gordon Brothers and organize the going-out-of-business sale right away.

Maybe if you had better advertising you would not be in the deep trench you currently occupy. For a retailer it is not enough to simply put a message out and hope for the best. You need immediate response to make the cash registers ring. Clearly your ad campaign has not delivered.

Obviously, advertising alone did not sink Talbot's, nor can you reasonably expect it to rescue the company. A toxic combination of changing styles, the poor economy, a confusing marketing message, and over reliance on discounting is what poisoned the well. I think Talbot's simply could not decide what it wanted to be when it grew up, and as a result you alienated loyal customers while never pulling in the younger buyers you wanted.

So go ahead and cut all the advertising. Save up that money to pay for the big, bold "Final Clearance" posters that will soon be showing up in your otherwise tastefully decorated windows. I know many well dressed women who will miss Talbot's.

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