• Andrea Lillo

Branding still vital

NEW YORK -"Branding is one of the most important aspects of retailing today," said Walter Loeb, president, Loeb Associates, at the start of last week's NRF seminar, "Branding-A Must for Today and Tomorrow."

"It's as important as the store itself," Loeb added.

Joined by Michael Gould, president and ceo, Bloomingdale's; Marc Chouinard, the president and coo of The Bay a Canadian high/low retailer; and Kenneth Walker, a partner of Retail Options, Loeb discussed how retailers need to use their store as a brand.

The group agreed. "Every contact the customer has either strengthens or weakens the brand," said Gould. "Consistency is key in everything we do." He is currently going through the most "intensified branding exercise" of his career defining what Bloomingdale's is for the 21st century.

With a history spanning 330 years, Hudson Bay, or The Bay, has been "beaten and bruised" over the past 20 years, said Chouinard. He found that the brand represented fashion and style to the consumer, and so the company began rebuilding the brand based on that, "shredding" 82 private labels with "zero recognition" in the process.

Regarding private labels, Walker added that "retailers get in a mire with private labels. Developing the store as a brand is a must."

When the discussion turned to the Internet, which it did for much of the conference, Gould said, "I'm a great believer of brick and mortar retailers. The consumer is not saying fulfill my needs but satisfy my dreams, and you can do that better in the store."

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