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RETAILCRAFT RECAP ”Let‘s get comfy” – Constanze Freienstein of Lands‘ End

In our latest RetailCraft episode (now available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts) Ian Jindal and Jamie Merrick dived into the very comfortable world of Lands’ End with special guest Constanze Freienstein, Managing Director, Europe.

Digital Editor, Scarlette Isaac, picks out some of the highlights from the discussion… 

On origins

Freienstein kicks off the conversation with some context on the brand, explaining that it was founded in 1963 by Gary Comer, a professional sailor from Chicago. The clothing quickly expanded beyond sea attire into a much broader range based primarily on comfort – hence the slogan “let’s get comfy”. 

“It’s all about quality in fabric, in production – it is about versatility and functionality in the product. It is about the one wardrobe versatility in using one piece of clothing in many different ways; from style down to style up. 

“Fit is very important in that sense and this manifests itself in our plus range. We have models who we take measurements from…we don’t just take the cookie cutter approach for everything that is very important to make sure that comfort is really felt in every item – same as the functionality. We are famous for having pockets in all our items.” 

Where do you fit into the landscape?

We always start with the customer, Freienstein begins. 

“Our customers are well established, social, very out there – they love the outdoors. They are very particular about quality. They are all about versatility and functionality. We design clothing  to help our customers feel comfortable in the world.” 

She adds that Lands’ End also aims to comfort the mind through offering sustainable clothing, through being inclusive and supporting diversity: “We engage in cases that are very dear to us.

“Right now, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and we are engaging with breast cancer charities in all countries that we operate in. Our CEO is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to support the cause. As an organisation, our employees engage with him in counting the steps and are also contributing to charity.” 

On customer feedback

“One of the things I love about leading an ecommerce company is the real-time feedback from the customer and really seeing customers directly engage. Our Market Performance Score (MPS) is strong and growing – we invest a lot in terms of understanding our customer as well as in UX technology processes to improve the customer journey.

Customers feedback on how they love the product, but also feedback on what they don’t like. Sometime ago, they said that they didn’t like our price transparency. Of course we run promotions on the website but they could never see that until they checked out. Although not an uncommon journey on websites, we took our customer for their word and introduced price clarity for all promotions we run for our recommended retail price, so the customer can fully see the pricing. 

She concludes: “That exchange is very very important for us to always further improve our customer experience and continue to be a leading and state of the art ecommerce player.” 

How does the European landscape look? 

“Our European business is the UK and mainland Europe. As we’ve set up in the UK and expanded in Germany two years later, those markets are still our most prominent markets. 

“The business is certainly extending its reach mainly through channels, where we used to be an ecommerce owned webshop business, we are now extending and operating and trading onto various marketplaces. And that is a global strategy but also here in Europe we are implementing in a very focused and fast way. 

“We have engaged with a partner in mainland Europe: X-Trade. They are a service provider for us and we aim to go live on about seven marketplaces on mainland Europe. We are now live on three marketplaces including Zalando, OTTO and Amazon and we are looking at expanding that so we can reach our customers where they like to shop.” 

On sustainability

“We have put quite an ambitious sustainability agenda into place that we are striving to achieve and that includes; water saving, denim production bleaching, 100% organically sourced cotton and it goes into using insulation materials that are fully recyclable. 

“Right now the cover item in our October campaign is a parka where the insulated filling is made of ten plastic bottles. It’s a wonderful piece of sustainable clothing and the customer has reacted very well. 

“It is a journey and we have to be very realistic in that you can’t be sustainable from today to tomorrow – you can’t switch all the sourcing processes, production, partners etc in the short term.” 

Freienstein explains that the retailer’s premises in Oakham are considered fully sustainable – with new solar panels to feed clean energy back into the grid, as well as plans to introduce electric power stations for electric cars in their car park. 

“We go so much wider in sustainability and really see this as a full 360 approach. I think this is very much Lands’ End – not just to zoom in or focus on one product but really holistically approaching a topic and delivering in its entirety.” 

On challenges 

“As a global company I think and feel we have managed to get through the many, many challenges in a way where we came out the other end motivated, positive and even with some wonderful gains and developments for the company. 

“We were fast and reactive enough to take all the opportunities that cropped up as well as some risk to move the business forward,” she explains.

“Most time in the last one and half years went into speaking to the team, communicating, making sure we understand how they feel, what they need as support and how we can best help them to settle in a new situation.” 

A glimpse at 2022 – what are you looking forward to? 

Freienstein shared her excitement for returning to the headquarters and bringing back in-person meetings.

She says:  “We do very much appreciate all the benefits of working from home but we do believe that it is time to come back together in person, particularly for collaboration, social engagement and team building opportunities. We have built the office in a way that we can fully accommodate a digital way of collaboration, cross hybrid teams so that’s something I’m very excited to see.” 

And secondly, our growth path for Europe is purely digital and mainly focuses on further building our webshop – our core platform, evolving a marketplace into Lands’ End and we hope that this will happen next year. We’re building capabilities and bringing on other brands to enrich the experience on our own platform and certainly marketplaces as a third pillar where we have great expectations for further penetration into Europe, building the business and reaching many more customers.”

To hear more about the Lands’ End, including social engagement, artificial intelligence and growth – you can listen to the full podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

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