New Owner Wants To Rescue Struggling Talbots

Jun 1, 2012
Originally published on June 1, 2012 9:04 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Talbots, the women's clothing seller, has been struggling lately. And now, it is getting a new owner. The private equity firm Sycamore Partners hopes to turn around the 65-year-old retailer.

From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: Talbots' core customers have been people like Ava Beaulieu, who's a strategic planner at a Boston health-care company.

AVA BEAULIEU: In the past, I would buy suits, dresses, shoes and accessories for work.

NICKISCH: She stopped buying at Talbots three years ago. With the recession, Beaulieu decided she didn't need to restock her wardrobe as often.

Patty Edwards, a retail industry analyst at Trutina Financial, says there were a lot of women like Beaulieu and, she says, office fashions have been changing.

PATTY EDWARDS: The high-tech world does not dress. In fact, you're considered overdressed if you show up with a jacket on.

NICKISCH: Talbots first tried to respond by reaching out to younger customers. It didn't work.

KATE CORDA: I don't even think I've really been in there.

(LAUGHTER)

NICKISCH: Twenty-five-year-old Kate Corda says none of her colleagues want to shop where their moms do. Worse, loyal customers were turned off by the low-slung, frilly tops next to the gray suits. Analyst Patty Edwards says Talbots has to update its fashion lines, but keep them true to the brand.

EDWARDS: So that it is a cool place for 30- and 40-year-olds to go in and find suiting that is classic, but not dowdy.

NICKISCH: Talbots' new owner is getting a relatively cheap shot at a turnaround. Sycamore is buying the company for around 10 percent of the stock value five years ago.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.