Once upon a time there was a wonderful start-up in Dodgeville, WI named Lands End. It produced great clothing items, many of which I confess still hang in my closet and get worn regularly. That attests to the timeless style and to the wonderful quality that existed…once upon a time.
Then Lands End was acquired by a man named Edward Lambert who is Chairman of Sears Holding, and who was going to do great things with Lands End (although the spectre of K-Mart hangs in the air). The Lands End sections in Sears stores was decidedly out-of-place given the much better quality that existed, at least initially. That didn’t work so well and the Lands End entity was finally able to negotiate a deal whereby it became more its own operation although still held in part by Sears Holding. Mr. Lambert’s Sears organization is not doing so well either. The Sears stores look nice but there doesn’t seem much business being transacted when I visit a Sears store. Nor does there seem to be an adequate staffing level; probably indicative of attempts to trim expense and create/improve profits.
Lands End is still in business, it is still held in part by Sears Holdings but it is suffering under significant errors in executive staffing. It’s sales are off. It’s classic Lands End approach to clothing has been, in my mind, perverted into something it never was and never should have been.
High-flying executives have been brought in to square this away and have failed; the current CEO, Federica Marchionni, made it known she wouldn’t dream of moving to the Dodgeville area so there was an executive office created in New York City for her and her support team. This seems to have had little, if any, favorable impact on the issues experienced at Lands End. High flying people who were thought to be the solution have come and have made virtually no difference. So, we now learn that a former Radio Shack CEO has been hired. That seems counter-intuitive since there don’t seem to be many Radio Shacks around any more.
Maybe this will all eventually get sorted out, but there seems not much forward momentum today. In the meantime, a great brand has been tarnished, maybe to the point that it’ll never fully recover. A community, Dodgeville, WI which was fully invested in the original Land’s End, rides a precarious roller coaster since it is largely driven by the ebbs and flows of this company, its largest employer by far.
Some things are better left as they were but the “chase the dollar” mentality of some people who think they can do anything prevents that from occurring. I wonder where Lands End would be today had it never been taken over by a professional financier. Maybe a bit smaller although that isn’t necessarily true. Maybe a bit truer to its original founder’s plan? I suspect that would be true. Maybe it would be doing better given the millenials huge impact on virtually everything…but they demand quality and I fear that has slipped a bit under this reign of never-ending saviors that seem to have forgotten how to save the companies they migrate to every couple of years or so.
Will Lands End ever get back to being what it was? I don’t see how that will ever occur. Will Dodgeville, WI ever be able to withstand a Lands End down-turn of major size? I fear what the answer to that question might be.
Remember Lands End?