Women’s apparel brand The Limited is making an online-only comeback Friday, 10 months after it shut down its stores and website.
Retail experts say because the brand’s focus will be on e-commerce, it may have a better chance of recapturing some of its past glory.
TheLimited.com will go live at 10 a.m. Eastern on Friday, according to a Facebook post from the retailer. The Limited, which was privately held, closed its online store in mid-January and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after liquidating its physical store inventory. The retailer kept TheLimited.com running, offering shoppers a chance to “stay in the know” about the retailer’s planned comeback if they subscribed to its email list but it did not sell any products.
Private equity firm Sycamore Partners acquired The Limited’s intellectual property in a bankruptcy auction in February for $26.75 million. Sycamore Partners declined to comment on who is running TheLimited.com or its plans for the brand. A customer service representative with The Limited would only say that the site will start selling merchandise on Friday.
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Retail experts say The Limited brand has a better chance at a comeback than other retail chains that have filed for bankruptcy.
“The Limited had a really deep heritage and a lot of customer loyalty for decades,” says Antony Karabus, CEO of retail consulting firm HRC Retail Advisory. “I think the differentiating factor will be the customer list and the knowledge of what the customer bought. Many of these chains that have gone bust, they don’t have the multi-decade heritage [or] women that grew up with The Limited.”
Prior to shuttering its online business in January, The Limited had posted year-over-year online sales growth from 2011 to 2015, ranking No. 216 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 with $130 million in online sales in 2015, up 18.2% from $110 million the previous year. According to Top500Guide.com, TheLimited.com launched in 2008.
Relaunching as an online-only brand can only help The Limited, Karabus says.
“The thing about The Limited is it’s known as a strong online business, much like Coldwater Creek had a strong online business and a very strong heritage online,” he says. “I believe that while in the last few years they missed a little bit in terms of the product, the loyalty will give them a very good shot at success. What they’ve got to do is make sure they’ve got the right designers and the right quality of product to make sure they hit the trend, but stay loyal to their heritage of who their customer is.”
The Limited recently renewed some of its social media activity, hinting that its comeback was imminent. A Facebook post on Sept. 21 informed shoppers that, “Our new fall collection is arriving soon and you can win it!”
The Limited still has more than 400,000 likes on Facebook and more than 20,000 Twitter followers. Consumers shared its Facebook post from Wednesday, which announced its online store will return, nearly 1,100 times, and the post has more than 6,500 reactions.
“The fact that they’re launching now doesn’t mean they haven’t been actively communicating with these customers,” Karabus says. “I would be shocked if they didn’t keep a couple of their very best designers, and I’d be shocked if they haven’t been communicating actively with their customers.”
Getting shoppers to visit TheLimited.com again won’t necessarily be easy. Web traffic data from digital analytics firm SimilarWeb shows that traffic to TheLimited.com dropped to 140,000 visitors in September, compared with 1.48 million visitors when the retailer filed for bankruptcy and shuttered its online store in January. The positive news for The Limited is that that 140,000 site visitors in September was nearly double the number in August (79,420).
The quality of the apparel and accessories that TheLimited.com sells will be key, as will hypersegmentation of its customer list, Karabus says.
“It all depends on the quality of the customer database, accuracy of email addresses, how often [customers] bought, what time of year they bought, what kind of promotions they responded to,” he says. “Because you have the loyalty, you have the opportunity to get some feedback from customers.”
Karabus also is optimistic about The Limited’s chances of success because of its price point.
“If you look at the market for mid-tier ladies wear, there’s not that much that’s doing well,” Karabus says. “There’s a lot less competition than there used to be because of bankruptcies and the like. I think they have a good shot.”Favorite