More Trouble for Talbots, Those Pretty Department Store Windows

Hello-Hello, happy start of a new week to everyone!

We begin with an update on Talbots. The news is not stellar. Here is more from Reuters:

(Reuters) – Women’s clothing retailer Talbots Inc expects a challenging holiday season as big discounts, which have so far failed to boost sales, are expected to continue to hurt its margins.

Talbots’ ran discounts of 70 percent — bigger than most peers — as it tries to clear out its uninspiring clothes. But even with the low prices, the retailer has not been able to entice shoppers.

Having unsubscribed from the company’s email list (way too much email) and not stopping in any stores lately meant I had no idea discounts were so deep, or worse yet, they didn’t seem to help move merchandise. Additionally, I hadn’t visited Talbots’ Facebook page for some time, so the following Boston Herald story was very much a surprise:

Over the past week, customers flocked to Talbots’ Facebook page to complain and commiserate with tales of suddenly “out-of-stock” items and that “dreaded unavailable email.”

Talbots repeatedly posted responses — “Ladies we are very sorry for your frustration” — and promised to make things right.

Today I popped in to read some of the FB posts. It was brutal. Scrolling through a week’s worth of posts was troubling; not only do they reference the inventory management problems outlined above in the Herald story, there are also multiple posts about poor customer service. Everyone is going to encounter an unhappy sales associate or telephone customer service rep having a bad day, no doubt about it. But what I was reading appears to transcend that “it’s to be expected” level.

A “Sale on Sale” items continues online and in store, with an additional 40% discount on already marked-down merchandise.


One need only look at the merchandise mix to see the company has lost its way.  Somehow the vision of a store selling tailored separates like these… (we show the Boiled Wool Jacket and the Jackie Fit Swing Jacket below)…

Talbots 'Boiled Wool Jacket' & 'Jackie Fit Jacket'

Doesn’t mesh with a store selling these crimes against fabric pieces. (We show a Merino Bat Wing Sweater, the One Shoulder Dress and Ava Illusion Top.)


More from Reuters on the plan for Talbots moving forward:

On Thursday, the Hingham, Massachusetts-based retailer outlined plans to make its operations leaner — including pulling out its national advertising and television campaigns and cutting jobs by 9 percent — which are expected to save the company about $50 million annually.

One area the retailer plans to expand? Its outlet store business. Women’s Wear Daily’s article quotes company CEO, Trudy Sullivan:

The company ended the quarter with 39 outlets and expects to open four more in the fourth quarter. “Over the long term, we believe this business has the potential to grow to approximately 80 to 100 stores,” the ceo told analysts.

The Journal reports the company is looking for Ms. Sullivan’s successor.  As of this morning there is news Ms. Sullivan will be leaving the company. Women’s Wear Daily has the story:

Ailing specialty chain The Talbots Inc. has begun to look a successor for president and chief executive officer Trudy Sullivan.

To ensure a smooth transition, Sullivan, 60, plans to retire once a replacement has been found.

Women's Wear Daily Staff Photo

It’s unfortunate, but the reality is also unfortunate, there have been problems at the retailer for years.  More from WWD:

“It has been a tough run, and there has been speculation for the last few months that Sullivan might exit or be forced out.”

Memo to new CEO: Umm, those ruffles? You know, the ones affixed to almost every item of clothing in the store? (Exhibit A is below, we show all five short sleeved items in the clearance category.  Each and every top in this group has some sort of ruffle.) Anyway, when someone brings up “the R word,” just say no.


As always, we hope the brand can find a way to consolidate its losses, repair the damage and return to a robust performance.


On a more upbeat note, we share a peek at some of those amazing decorated department store windows around the world. We begin with one of Bergdorf‘s windows, Vanity Fair has a fab feature on the topic.

Justin Bishop/Vanity Fair

Here is a closer look, I love the detail, right down to the opera length gloves.

Justin Bishop/Vanity Fair

Bergdorf has lions in Mad Men style apparel, as well as creations made entirely from paper, as seen on the right.

Justin Bishop/Vanity Fair

At Barney’s the windows have a Lady Gaga theme, the store is amid an enormous collaborative effort with the entertainer.

Justin Bishop/Vanity Fair

On the far side of the pond in London Harrod’s windows are done with Swarovski crystals.

Luke White/Vanity Fair

The windows at Printemps in Paris were done in collaboration with Chanel and Mr. Lagerfeld.

Courtesy Printemps via Vanity Fair

The detail work on all of the windows around the world is simply amazing, here is a better look at Mr. Lagerfeld.

Courtesy Printemps via Vanity Fair

We leave you with at Tiffany’s decor from the outside (L) and one of the windows with its sleigh of boxes in the company’s signature robin’s egg blue (R).

Kelly Stuart/Elle

On that note, g’bye until next time!



Filed under Collaborations, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands

12 responses to “More Trouble for Talbots, Those Pretty Department Store Windows

  1. Amazing how wrong Talbot’s is … and how surprisingly sad that Anthropologie/Urban seem to be swaying now.

    The downfall (was there ever an upside) to Sears Holding/KMart was not having a merchandiser/fashion director. The stark contrast with Target’s moves is stunning.

  2. It’s sad to see Talbot’s still struggling. They certainly have lost their way and moved far away from traditional, tailored and timeless. Talbot’s and trendy just don’t go together.

  3. Brigid

    It seems the farther they get away from their traditional/prep styles, the worse the sales revenue. I’m still on the mailing list and responded to their survey re: what brand of jeans I wear and would I purchase jeans from Talbots. After making it clear that I would not with the yes/no answers, it asked for more detail and I echoed your thoughts here. Honestly, if they think they’re going to save the company by selling jeans, Talbots is a lost cause.

  4. Too bad about Talbots, its always sad for me to hear of a company thats been around a long time and one that has fit a niche get into trouble, I hope they are able to dig themselves out, looks and sounds like a deep hole and so agree, the ridding of the ruffles might be a great start!
    The windows are just so magical and beautiful…love the mini KL, that is very funny, he is a bit cartoonish don’t you think?
    Enjoy the rest of your day!

  5. Little Red

    Not surprised one bit to read about Talbot’s troubles. I haven’t been in their store for almost a year and also unsubscribed from their mailing list.

  6. Love, love your blog! I am your newest follower.
    Thank you for the kind comment yesterday on Tina’s post :).

  7. Love the BG windows. They are right under my nose, I have to go check them out!

  8. I remember looking at my mother’s Talbots catalogues when I was young. I started shopping there shortly after college and am surprised to see how far they’ve fallen. Though I do stop in from time to time. They have my absolute favorite cords and I was able to snag three pairs last week for about $20 each. It was their sale items on sale promo. But the pants were the only thing I saw. Everything else was just meh.

  9. Those are some seriously wonderful windows. I wonder what we’ve got here in SF. Hmm. Might have to go look.

  10. So sad to hear that about Talbots. It is either hit or miss at times. Hopefully they will be able to regroup. Love the Tiffany’s window!!

  11. greyships

    I have a hard time finding things at Talbots when they’re having a sale – and I really like taking advantage of sales! I do like some of their Hollywood classics – things Audrey or Marilyn would have worn, with jacket and sweater shapes that do work and aren’t seen everywhere.

    I was one of those recipients of those “sorry, we sold out of the items you actually purchased and paid for on our website” emails and I was not pleased, because there were some items I purchased for my mother’s holiday gifts (their tees are extremely soft.)

    They don’t get my business in person, since they don’t carry their plus sizes in the stores, so, meh.

  12. I used to almost solely rely on Talbots for my wardrobe in the 80’s while I was working. I gave up my credit card there in the 90’s. I think this has been working its way to the current situation. I used to love getting their catalog back then. Everything changes though, like the holiday windows every year. 🙂

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