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What We Can Learn From Struggling Canadian Retailers Danier Leather and Le Chateau

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The laundry list of struggling Canadian retailers continues to grow week by week.

The latest additions to the list of sinking ships: Canadian retail fixtures, Le Chateau and Danier Leather.

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While some stores like Sephora are finding new and creative ways to keep their customers loving them (and returning time over time), what possible advice can we at VL give Le Chateau and Danier Leather as they look for ways to stay afloat? Well, keep reading – we’ve got some interesting perspectives based on the data, the customer, and the absolute need for integration that may be able to save these two Canadian icons from shuttering their doors for ever. And if others in similar situations can learn by example, all the better!


Too Many Stores

Danier Leather has 86 stores across Canada; Le Chateau has 219 in Canada and 1 store in the United States. For comparison, The Bay has 90 full retail locations with 2 additional outlet locations across Canada – and that’s coming from HBC, who’s CEO Jerry Storch loves retail and sees ecommerce as akin to useless.

Further complicating the sheer number of stores both Danier and Le Chateau have are where the stores are located; a number of these locations are located in B or C malls, also known as outlet malls or those less-than-high-end malls. You know the ones I’m talking about. The presence of these prevalent outlet locations says two things to me, as an avid shopper:

  1. Why would I pay full price for this season’s items when I could pay less than half of that at an outlet or last chance store for last season’s stuff?
  2. What’s going on with the brands that they need so many outlet and last chance stores? It not only screams cheap to me, but something about this high rate of inventory turn over feels like the retail brands are trying to pull a fast one on me somehow.

Both Danier and Le Chateau are currently trying to reinvent themselves, and according to this article, it’s centered mainly around renovating their retail locations. While a nice environment to shop in is appreciated (see below), if the goods in the store aren’t up to par, then I’m not walking into the store to start anyways. I’d personally recommend distilling the Danier and Le Chateau experiences into less stores, instead of spreading them too thin across too many retail locations. (See this article on how timing and the business suite of applications and programs, as well as how they’re tied together, can affect scaling a business.)

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Quality Over Quantity

This saying applies to both the retail locations and the contents of those locations for both Danier and Le Chateau. Not only do both these brands have way too many stores in my opinion, but have you ever walked in to a Danier or Le Chateau? Stock is crowding the sales floor to the point where it’s difficult to walk down isles – especially in the outlet and last chance locations.

Quantity over quality is a dying mantra, especially in light of Just In Time (JIT) shipping, and new boutique stores that only carry a limited stock of each item, instead relying on omni-channel shipping methods and 3PLs rather than a loaded sales floor or stock room.

Moreover, the stock in each of these stores across Canada are more or less the same – middle of the road, inexpensive, and guaranteed to fall apart. You have your fall line: that’s what’s in each and every store location. There’s no customization or unique tailoring to the very much individual markets each store lives in. There’s a disconnect. Perhaps Danier and Le Chateau are not collecting enough data; perhaps they haven’t efficiently and effectively tied their business’ applications and programs together so that their data flows and some meaning can be projected onto it. Whatever the case may be, I can assure you that both Danier and Le Chateau could be using data to their advantage.

The fact of the matter is that the ‘middle’, the ho-hum average, is going extinct when it comes to retail. Danier and Le Chateau are unfortunately part of that middle. They need to start leveraging the technology and trends that are seeing stores like Sephora and H&M fly high.

A Lack of Omni-Channel

Neither Danier or Le Chateau are known for their ecommerce portals. I actually had to look it up to see if they even had ecommerce portals. Go figure, they do.

Compare Sephora‘s website to that of Danier or Le Chateau’s. You might not be able to put your finger on it, but you can feel the difference. But when you get down to the nuances, there’s a definite lack of omni-channel integration going on from the Danier and Le Chateau side of things. There’s no community, there’s no experience. Similar to the bland experience of their stores, there’s nothing that engenders excitement or really any emotion for the brands. There aren’t any forums for fans of the brands to review, share styling tips, and so on. There’s no way to see if the item I’m looking at online is in the location nearest to me.

There’s no omni-channel experience. And again, renovating your stores are perhaps a logical place to start – but not necessarily the best. Danier and Le Chateau should be looking into who their customers are, and how they like to shop. And then creating an omni-channel brand experience to match. And again, this comes back to Danier and Le Chateau getting to know their customers – i.e., collecting and mining that data! And if you’re a regular follower of VL’s blogs, you’ll know that your data’s only as good as your integration.

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Customer Experience

And finally, something that most retailers can improve on: customer experience across all channels.

I’m still astounded every time I walk into a retail outlet and get summarily ignored by less-than-busy sales associates. I’m here to spend my hard-earned cash, and this is how I get treated?

But at the same time, the opposite is just as bad. No one wants to get hounded by a sales associate. There’s a balance, and Danier and Le Chateau have to find what it is for their customers. Not to put Sephora on a platinum-plated pedestal, but they’ve got their customer experience figured out: read for yourself how impressed I was last time I shopped with them.

Sephora knows their customers. They’ve got the loyalty programs, the data, the omni-channel integration, and likely more to support their customers’ experiences. And sometimes Sephora stores are crowded, busy, and overwhelming – but their customers still come back. I encourage Danier and Le Chateau to take some notes on what Sephora is doing right (and here’s a hint: it doesn’t start with store renovations).


So what can Danier and Le Chateau do to win back some of the women’s retail market?

#1: Stop spending money without doing your research! Do your customers really truly care how your store looks? Do you even know? Too many of VL’s clients come to us having spent a ton of cash on band aid integration solutions like Le Chateau and Danier are starting to do with their renos. Design the customer experience, and then create the assets to match.

How do you know what your customers want? Rake in that data. How do you get the most out of that data? You make sure it’s fully integrated and can flow between your different applications and programs, and then you find meaning in that data.

Everything starts with good, scalable, robust data integration.

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