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July 27, 2005

Tailoring the Ann Taylor Brand

The following post is an abstract of a Wall Street Journal article titled, Once a Bellwether, Ann Taylor Fights Its Stody Image.
[article link (sub. req'd.) | July 12, 2005]

What happens when a little sister brand supplants the older sister brand? That’s the situation the venerable Ann Taylor brand is dealing with as its rising little sister brand, Ann Taylor Loft, gains momentum.

The 10 year-old Ann Taylor Loft brand, a moderately price casual chic woman’s wear label, now outsells the 51 year-old more conservative and higher-priced Ann Taylor brand. Sales last year at Ann Taylor Loft grew 40% while sales at Ann Taylor declined 1.5%. And in 2005, Ann Taylor Loft plans to have 400 stores open, far eclipsing the 359 Ann Taylor locations.

The strategy behind introducing the Ann Taylor Loft line was to keep the Ann Taylor name relevant by capitalizing on the casual fashion age which emerged in the mid-90s. Now the founding, older sister brand is in danger of becoming irrelevant.

To arrest the sales decline at Ann Taylor, the company has hunkered down and refined who the Ann Taylor customer is. The company’s marketing and merchandising teams have created an Ann Taylor persona, a richly articulated description of the prototypical Ann Taylor customer. Every marketing and merchandising decision at the company is now made based upon the Ann Taylor persona, appropriately named … Ann.

Ann is a married 36 year-old working mother of two children with a household income of $150K. She leads a busy, sophisticated life and her idea of dressing down at work is wearing a velvet jacket with jeans.

In comparison, the Ann Taylor Loft customer is a married thirtysomething with children, works in a laid-back less corporate environment, and has a household income between $75K and $100K.

At a recent catalog photo shoot for the two brands, the difference between the older sister brand and younger sister brand was quite apparent. The backdrop for the Ann Taylor catalog was the upscale and opulent Breakers Hotel in Palm Springs, FL. While the Ann Taylor Loft catalog was shot on a beach in Jamacia with simple and sparse props.

Sales at older sister Ann Taylor have yet to rise significantly, but hopes are high following strong sales in June.


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» Persona non Grata? from WonderBranding: Marketing to Women
Just before I jumped on a plane to Burbank, I caught a Brand Autopsy post on the effect that the success of Ann Taylor Loft has had on its parent, Ann Taylor. John Moore gives an excellent account of how [Read More]

» Welcome Holly! from Branding Blog
Let's give a big bloggy welcome to Holly Buchanan and her Marketing to Women Online blog! She and Michele Miller have picked up on a Brand Autopsy story about Ann Taylor using a persona for each of their retail divisions. [Read More]

» Shopping at Ann Taylor from
I was mildly worried/annoyed to read this article at the Brand Autopsy blog.� I love fashion and I love shopping, and had to do an awful lot of�buying up some new duds a year ago when I got hired for my�marketing job.��Considering my previous po [Read More]


Ann Taylor Loft is a "brandlet", not a stand-alone brand. It's a price tier, a division, a business unit. It couldn't have existed without the Ann Taylor brand. Really, I see no problem with it eclipsing the original in sales. The original was likely well-penetrated, over-matured and up against a price ceiling. On top of that, it wasn't as Ritzy as other designer names, and not as affordable as some below it. It was in a "brand-eddy" of sorts. So, why not grow the company with a value-priced vertical self-distributed high-margin brandlet, (if you MUST grow it that is)? Keep the original the original; even if it does not grow, it's clout and high-$$$ reputation will continue to propel the brandlet along for a good while. Play it wrong though, (by going too low $$ with the brandlet), and the original could go away eventually. That'd be OK too if it didn't happen real fast; just lose the "Loft" at that point, and live in the mid-priced world as Ann Taylor again. Meantime, expecting them both to grow was probably a bit much.

i think the persona focused marketing is a great idea. I think that it will definetely benefit the company in the long-run, because there aren't that many other major clothing companies that successfully target this demographic. However, there must be a lot more to the ann taylor and ann taylor loft persona's. These definitions seem too general and basic to be of much value to the company. I'd be interested to find out what the full "persona" was.

pls. update me the latest fashion.

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