Tuesday, March 9, 2010
A Moment of Silence...and vindication!
Breaking news in the retail world: American Eagle Outfitters announced just before the close of business today that they would close their concept Martin + Osa by the end of Second Quarter 2010.
At first when I heard, I must admit I was a little saddened, but I'm not surprised. Can we say Ruehl 2.0? Over the last several months, I've been incredibly skeptical of the brand's marketing and image. I really have (and still do!) loved the products and the idea of the concept. Whenever you take inspiration from a fabulous couple (Martin + Osa Johnson) who were world class travelers, movie makers, authors, philanthropists, and archaeologists, you're bound to have brilliant collections. But I must say the inspiration was lost in translation.
Starting with a good intention is one half of the equation; when your delivery declines on a daily basis - your intentions are clouded and lost. In ends as an awful mixture of new products quickly being reduced in price, a myriad of sales, promotions, and special offers, a return policy that started with complimentary returns (a huge allure in the internet shopping industry) that was quickly dissolved, and lacklustre performance.
Originally geared towards a higher end, older demographic than American Eagle shoppers, Martin + Osa was supposed to be for the young professional set in their mid-20s to mid-40s. But the real clients were never really defined, yet alone captured. Even in a recent grassroots marketing effort on Facebook, the company offered 25% off your next purchase if the company's fanpage received 6,000 fans - but less than only 4,500 people were interested in the company. In comparison, Guess Jeans' fanpage has more than 170,000 fans.
Blame it on mix messages from their marketing department. Blame it on too much segmentation between the online store and it's retail stores (where there were often instances of the same merchandise offered at different prices in-store versus online). Blame it on product allocation and buying. Blame it on shareholders with unrealistic expectations in a tough economy. Blame it on AEO leadership, and possibly its lack thereof. Blame it on the US$44 million dollars that the brand lost in 2009, including a US$11 million writedown.
No one really knows what went wrong with Martin + Osa. I've got a good bit of clothing from M+O - from cashmere sweaters, to vneck tshirts, to polo shirts, to denim - and really love it all. All I know is that I'm now searching for my next new favourite store.
Martin + Osa, it was a pleasure to know you both.