Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Reader's Question: What is the Community's Opinion of Lands' End's New CEO, Dolce & Gabbana's Federica Marchionni?

A reader (thank you) asked what people here think about the announcement of  Lands' End's new CEO.


  1. I fear and suspect that this will be the final nail in the coffin for L.E. and it will morph into something similar to Eddie Bauer, J. Crew, Abercrombie, or H&M et al. In other words, really, really cheap (-er) third world sweatshop stuff marketed as casual (slob)wear to the masses for much more money than it is actually worth. Just my two cents. I hope I am wrong.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  2. Is it just me, or doesn't this sound like every other brand in the modern shopping mall? I think the only question is whether they want to name Eddie Bauer (cheap), J. Crew (sort of cheap), or Ralph Lauren (expensive) as their primary rival. I use "cheap" here in the economic sense. In the quality sense all of the above companies make cheap items.

    The effort to turn any of these brands (esp. Bean and Brooks) into global brands is likely destined to fail. They lack the cache of "high fashion" brands, they are abandoning their customer base, and they have inevitably placed themselves on the path toward planned obsolescence.

    I don't really mourn the death or change of companies, though. If they choose to leave my tastes behind there are other options. In the age of the internet there are no captive audiences.

  3. Interesting! I hope it brings good things.

    I like a lot of the Lands' End slobwear. Excellent swimsuits and rashguards. Cute flats and great cashmere tees. I'm also a fan of their bedding.

    I was hoping for far better things from Lands' End Canvas - fabulous idea, poor execution.

  4. I think the term "global lifestyle brand" says it all: bad news by the barrel.

  5. I don't know that it matters much, really.

    Ever since Land's End started retailing their products through Sears stores, I think the quality of their merchandise has really suffered.

    Rather coincidentally, that's also about the time my family and I stopped purchasing their goods.

  6. "Moving from classic American retailer to global fashion lifestyle" sounds eerily similar to what Del Veccio did with Brooks Bros...and we see where that strategy landed the company.

    My question is this: where in business school do they teach students that, in order for a company to be considered successful, they must always be growing and expanding, cutting costs in every possible area (which results in reducing workers' salaries to below poverty level and cheapening the product), and always having to sell more stuff to more people? When was making a good product for a fair wage and selling it to a defined customer base not enough?

  7. Lands' End actually died the day, now almost ten years ago that it was acquired by Sears. Sears began the long process of destroying quality products in the name of market share.

    I stopped buying their products when Sears acquired them and now, the fact that Hedge Fund Manager Eddie Lampert has spun them off changes nothing.

    Like Sears itself, which probably won't be here in 10 years, Lands' End is finished. It is dead, they just haven't realized it yet.

    Paul Connors

  8. Well, I don't know if they teach it in business school or not, but companies do have to change. It's because their customer base changes, like it or not. Otherwise, a company's sales will be flat and their margin will wind up being thin. That happened to the original Abercrombie & Fitch as well as L.L.Bean. There are still companies like that, which cater to a tiny market. They are not necessarily real expensive but they're certainly not cheap in any sense of the word. One example is Russell Moccasins. Another is Peter Limmer & Sons hiking boots. L.L. Bean started out with a boot and expanded only slowly and as he became older, he saw no reason to do things any differently. He personally would never have sold women's wear.

  9. I see Land's End much like Radio Shack.....the business is dead, they just haven't realized it yet.

  10. I share the feeling of missing the "old" Land's End, but this news doesn't affect that directly as the old LE has been gone for years. Land's End has always written their copy with a grand sense of pride, but clearly cannot compete with premium or even mid-range apparel competition. However, I think that their basics (Drifter Sweater, Squall Jacket, etc.) are still worth the money asked for purchase. These are the clothes that get Saturday duty and fill the need. The downside is that many customers would pay more for better quality, even for weekend work!

  11. I don't know what to think. The last few orders I received from LE were good, I could see a lot of improvement in the quality of many of their items. I was hopeful that they were turning a corner, but who knows what will happen now.

  12. My first purchase from Lands' End two decades ago arrived with a thin catalog that included images and a description of products being made by good folks in Wisconsin. Long ago, indeed. I still own a frayed but very comfortable oxford buttondown from that era.

    As long as Lands' End continues offering its Hyde Park buttondown oxford and doesn't tinker with it too much (were the collars shortened in recent years?), I'll forgive Lands' End for whatever it unveils in the name of "global lifestyle."

  13. They quoted the new CEO as saying they were going to take a "classic american brand" and transform it into "a global lifestyle brand." Two thoughts; she should rethink "classic american brand" it hasn't been that since the 1980s and global lifestyle brand, I don't know about you but that's a problem, real people have lives, they get out and do stuff, they don't have lifestyles, that's for poseurs.

  14. If you wanted clothing in Germany that O'Connells (Buffalo N.Y.) still offers today (corduroy pants, flannel shirts, oxford shirts, chinos et c.), you could get it at Lands' End (GmbH). Probably by the time Sears bought Lands' End, offerings and quality deteriorated. Sadly, simplicity and quality will get replaced by some other concept. Probably the company won't fail to make money with it but they will be passé for people who value simple, beautiful clothes which hold out for more than five years.

  15. @Unknown 1:42 pm: They teach it in Finance 101. It's called the stock market. My assumption is that your savings are invested in those instruments that give you the highest return, no? What if I told you I could move your IRA over into a set of funds that were getting half your current return -- but were in nice little companies that sold good products and stuck to their knitting? I'm as bewildered as anyone over the increasingly short-term focus of the market, but it's useless to pretend we aren't all complicit in it.

  16. It will be an interesting transition, for sure. I don't really buy many things from Land's End, however I do like their Hyde Park Oxford shirts. They used to be on my radar back in the 1980's, but not as much today.I do remember their rugby shirts being quite nice, back in the day.

  17. Lands End has gone the way of Eddie Bauer and Coach. So sad for those of us who want good, classic clothing. Good news for those who want knit (?) jeans and "fly away" cardigans. I don't have much hope for LE in the future.

  18. Dear Mr. Sartre,

    I think most of us are only in the market for the short term. In the long term we are all dead. What we don't quite grasp is that these companies are not really selling to us; they're selling to our children.

  19. Lands' End actually used to publish such essays in their catalogs. Those were better times, indeed.

    From the May 1987 Lands’ End catalog:

    by Roy Earnshaw

    My wife is still asleep. I’ve exercised (quietly), showered, eaten breakfast. Now comes time for a familiar early morning ritual.

    I take a cotton dress shirt from the closet, a wrinkled cotton dress shirt, shrug it off its hanger, and drape it over the ironing board.

    Some men might smirk at the sight of me preparing to iron. “What? You iron your own shirts? John Wayne never would’ve!”

    Well, call me a pantywaist, but I happen to enjoy it.

    I plug in the iron, check the water level, turn the setting to — what else — cotton. Then pause for a few moments to let it get hot.

    The room where I iron is a barren one. No furniture, just the ironing board. A “room we haven’t figured out what to do with yet,” having just recently bought this house. I suppose one day it will fill up with things, but right now I like it this way. Its spartan aspect seems well suited to the art of ironing.

    I start with the left sleeve, first spritzing on water with a sprayer, then ironing it so flat, it almost looks as if I could pick it up and slice bread with it.

    I turn it over, do the other side, then the cuff. Then on to the other sleeve, while the ironed one dangles just above the dusty wood floor.

    (My wife tells me my technique is all wrong, but then so did my golf coach, my typing teacher, other authority figures. I take a perverse pleasure in doing things my own incorrect way.)

    Now the back yoke, and a couple swipes at the collar. The easy parts. And then I sweep the shirt up off the board and down again, with its back spread out flat before me.

    Sometimes I botch the back pleat, and have to do it two or three times. But no one is watching.

    The ironing board cover bothers me. It’s a cheap one, full of childish flowers in jarring hues. Orange. Chartreuse. Purple. The colors of fast food restaurants. I miss the plain white one my mother used to have, with its humble dignity and burn smudges.

    I press on. (No letters please — bad puns harm no one.) The cotton cloth is soft, sturdy in my fingers, and responsive to the iron. I swear, it enjoys being ironed! Almost seems to purr. It has a wonderful, tightly-woven texture to it, and glistens with the heat of the iron, and the soft light of the room.

    Again I sweep the shirt up off the board, and down again, to do the right front, skating in and out around the buttons, then the left, using plenty of water and going over the stubborn placket again and again, bearing down, until it finally yields and becomes flat, neat. I am finished.

    Now, the final pleasure of slipping into the toasty shirt. Especially keen now, in the February cool of the house. It almost crackles as I button it up, tuck it in.

    The finches in the back room start to peep as first light looks in the windows. Time for me to go. But I leave with a sense of contentment, knowing that whatever large debacles or small frustrations await me, I have at least done one small piece of good work today.

  20. Of course Sartre is right: no one should be shocked that a publicly-traded company (or any company with the potential) is reaching for the biggest slice of the pie possible. In apparel, this means leveraging a storied name against unremarkable products at aspirational prices. I am curious to see how LE will attempt to transition to a "global lifestyle brand," seeing as they lack the cache of BB or even Bean. It's not a brand or a product that I see customers in China greeting with much enthusiasm. I could see it working as a capsule of LE's most iconic and quintessential pieces aimed at Japan, whose customers tend to value authenticity and attention to detail, but I seriously doubt that this is the route they will take.

    In light of what will no doubt be significant changes ahead, I might stock up on some favorites. For many women, including many younger women, LE's shell button cardigans are the only cardigans that will do. They are cut intelligently without resorting to a shrunken fit, there are always a few good colors every season, and the material wears and washes beautifully. Their home goods are lovely - especially beach towels - and their bathing suits are the stuff of legend amongst women's college grads. They may not be what they once were, but they do still have quite a lot to lose.

  21. Old School,

    Thank you so much for sharing a wonderful essay on what one might call "the zen of ironing!"
    Hearthstone Farm

  22. Sadly, I hold little hope that Land’s End will continue to be a source of clothing for me. The Supima cardigan, mentioned by a previous commenter, has been a wardrobe staple since my teens. The last was returned, however, because the fabric was so flimsy and the cut too fitted. I switched to the Bean fine-gauge cardigan, which is more substantial and has a much better fit. Fortunately, I have a shelf full of the original Land’s End all-cotton cardigans, which I hope will last me many more years. Last season, I got several of their cable Drifter sweaters, which are acceptable. They seem to have been replaced this year with an odd ‘texture’ Drifter, though.

    I agree that ‘lifestyle’ is something one purchases, not something one lives, and I want clothing I can live in.