The new collection, which includes about 50 items, will be called Collection (rather uninspiring as far as names go, but it shares the name with J. Crew's
Targeting an affluent customer is nothing new in retail, since there's the argument that wealthy customers are always willing to spend, regardless of the macroeconomic environment. Truly wealthy shoppers just aren't going to experience the sticker shock that others will.
There are many signs that retailers and brands covet the high-end and discount markets, since it's the middle-of-the-road brands that seem to have trouble these days, judging by the situation at department stores like Macy's, and even Ann Taylor's sluggish growth recently. Consumer goods company VF
Many savvy female shoppers who aren't rolling in the dough play both sides and avoid the middle -- get some cheap chic someplace like Target to save a few dollars, yet pay up for some irresistible, pricier item somewhere like Nordstrom
Ultimately, Ann Taylor's news came as a surprise to me, considering the fact that the retailer recently said it's launching a new concept for the "modern" baby boomer. I suppose it occurred to me that maybe Ann Taylor's got plenty on its plate already between a new concept's strategy and reinvigorating its core concept and Loft.
Furthermore, I can't help but wonder if launching a high-end brand side by side with its existing merchandise isn't a risky proposition. The Collection's pieces will reportedly be made with higher-quality materials, ostensibly making them worth the markup. But will that really convince Ann Taylor's existing customers to pay up, and what does it say about the retailer's other apparel -- and will it draw truly upscale shoppers who may have an entirely different impression of Ann Taylor's brand?
It should be interesting to see if Ann Taylor can pull off all its high-flying plans. It's got plenty of them, but that doesn't mean they will necessarily spark growth for the retailer.
Berkshire Hathaway has been recommended by Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Inside Value. VF is an Income Investor pick. If you would like to outfit your portfolio with any of these companies, grab a free 30-day trial of any newsletter to read the original recommendation.