Specialty apparel retailer The Children’s Place sees Gymboree Corp.’s recent bankruptcy filing as an opportunity to gain customers.
Gymboree, No. 392 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, filed for bankruptcy protection in June. In July, the retailer announced plans to close as many as 350 stores. To capitalize, The Children’s Place (No. 110) is working to improve its digital business and learn more about how its shoppers engage with its brand both on and offline.
“We have been working on several strategies to proactively acquire Gymboree’s customers in their closing locations,” president and CEO Jane Elfers told analysts on the retailer’s earnings call last week, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “In the past, we did not have digital tools to proactively acquire customers where competitors were closing location. We will continue to learn as Gymboree closes the first 25% of its stores, and we will be well-positioned in the future to continue to gain additional market share from additional competitor closures.”
Elfers did not specify which digital tools it now has to acquire Gymboree’s customers in those locations, and The Children’s Place did not return multiple requests for comment.
The Children’s Place grew its web traffic by 5.4% month over month from June, when Gymboree filed for bankruptcy, to July, according to data from web analytics firm SimilarWeb. Gymboree, on the other hand, experienced a 13.9% traffic decline during that same period. Those web traffic numbers are in sharp contrast to the month-over-month traffic gains that both retailers enjoyed from June-July 2016, when online traffic for The Children’s Place increased 24.3% month over month and grew 10.5% for Gymboree.
At the store level, Elfers said The Children’s Place has experienced a gain in sales of about $150,000 in locations where both The Children’s Place and Gymboree had a storefront after Gymboree began liquidating stores last month.
Elfers also expounded upon The Children’s Place’s working relationship with Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1). The Children’s Place has been selling on Amazon since 2014 and has continued to expand the amount of products it sells on the site, with Elfers telling analysts she expects to have 4,000 SKUs on Amazon in time for the 2017 holiday shopping season, up from 300 SKUs in 2014.
“We are partnering with Amazon by utilizing key tools to increase sales and build relevance and brand recognition on their site,” she said. “We were both very pleased with our results on prime day where we were the number two overall brand for kids and babies. Our newest initiative with Amazon is our partnership with Amazon Canada, which will go live for holiday 2017.” Prime Day is Amazon’s annual mid-summer sale that was first held in 2015 to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary.
Elfers told analysts that the retailer is working on building a new CRM system that will give it better insight into shopper behaviors both online and in-stores.
“This capability will allow us to better recognize, target and engage our customers, measure the impact of marketing initiatives and allow us to more effectively collaborate through third-party marketing partners to achieve quantifiable business outcomes,” she said.
The new CRM is part of a broader strategy designed to improve personalization. Elfers said the retail chain has launched a cross-functional insights lab where it tests new ideas designed to help it better cater to its high-value customers.
“These tests focus on engaging with our customers via both digital marketing as well as in-store, where the majority of our customers still shop,” she said. “The primary focus of the insights lab is launching innovative tests to inform our personalization strategy.”
The Children’s Place is also working to make better use of its 1,026 store locations to fulfill online orders. The retail chain began testing out buy online, pick up in store in store locations in New Jersey and Florida during the second quarter and plans on rolling it out to all of its U.S. store locations by the end of this month. This comes a year after The Children’s Place piloted a reserve online, pick up in store offering. Reserve online, pickup in store is still only available in select locations according to The Children’s Place’s website, though the company does not specify which locations or how many.
In a separate announcement, The Children’s Place announced that it had hired retail veteran Steven Rado as its new chief digital officer. Rado comes from nutritional supplements manufacturer and retailer Swanson Health Products, where he had served as chief marketing and merchandising officer since February, according to his LinkedIn profile. Rado has also held vexecutive positions with Office Depot Inc. (No. 13), Victoria’s Secret (parent company L Brands Inc. is No. 26), and Lands’ End (No. 49).
“Steve’s deep leadership experience in all aspects of marketing will be invaluable as we move forward with our digital transformation initiative,” Elfers said.
The Children’s Place does not break out e-commerce figures in its quarterly earnings reports, but chief financial officer Anurup Pruthi says he expects that online will account for somewhere in the mid-20% range of overall sales in 2017, up from nearly 20% in 2016.
- Net sales of $373.6 million, up 0.6% from $371.4 million during the same time last year.
- A year-over-year comparable retail sales gain of 3.1%.
- A profit of $14.3 million, compared to a $2.0 million loss last year.
For the first six months of 2017, The Children’s Place reported:
- Net sales of $810.3 million, up 2.5% from $790.8 million last year.
- A year-over-year comparable retail sales gain of 4.7%.
- A profit of $50.5 million, compared to a $24.0 million profit last year.