Behind the Brand: Sears

It’s one thing to “Like” a retailer on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

It’s quite another to learn about who promotes which clothes belong in your closet.

Name: Robin Vengroff

Position: Styling Sample Coordinator

Employer: Sears

Education: Fashion Communications, Ryerson University

Favourite blogs: Worn Fashion Journal, The Man Repeller, Jak and Jil, Garance Dore, Style Rookie, ModCloth, Refinery29

Favourite mobile app: The Collection – New York Times Fashion

Style icon: Iris Apfel, Jackie O, and my Grandmother

Professional role model: Grace Coddington (Creative Director of Vogue), Alexa White (of W) and founder Susan Gregg Koger

In 140 characters or less, why can we be optimistic about the future of Sears?

Sears is focusing on gaining back the trust of its customers. It’s a matter of getting back to basics, and putting value and quality first.

What do you enjoy about working for a retailer, rather than a fashion designer or magazine?

Working for a retailer was a big to do on my fashion professional checklist for a number of reasons. I think that the experience I have had in working from both other perspectives was not really fully developed until coming into this environment. Seeing how initiatives get put into place in this kind of world is so different. I like this environment because it pertains to the realistic expectations of shoppers. Fashion magazines are about taking clothes and making them into a story to portray a theme for the season. And working for a boutique fashion designer was geared towards pleasing a very particular kind of customer and style. In this world of mass retail we also develop and market brands and a story or theme for the season, but the customer base is so much larger that I felt that it was extremely important to me in my career to understand that relationship as well.

Sears in particular was enticing for me to work for because it presented a lot of opportunity for growth within company. As a company Sears is very nurturing of its own talent – there are programs in place like the Future Leaders Program for Buyers that trains and develops the skills of employees.

What is Sears doing to ensure that it’s top-of-mind for Canadians shopping for clothing and accessories?

There are quite a few initiatives put into place this past year to do just that.

The publication of our LOOK! reports that showcases the newest looks of the upcoming style season, The LOOK! report is a great example of how Sears is putting itself in the forefront of shoppers minds, its Customer Driven, Marketing Led, and Good Value Items. It’s our way to demonstrate to customers that Canadians can still get the latest looks of the season at prices they expect from Sears.

Our price rebalancing under the promotional umbrella “Over 5,000 lower prices” that creates more realistic regular and sale prices and increases the value we offer every day of the week.

Our customer service initiatives including Our Promise and a more customer-friendly returns policy.

Last, although the media seems focused on the stores that have closed there is also exciting things going on with stores that have been updated and made to be more modern. The refresh stores reflect a customer-led approach that presents our merchandise in a way that creates a stage for product and highlights our hero categories, the right mix and a strong position on basics.

Establishing and maintaining relationships with the press is essential to succeed in your role. What’s involved in building a rapport with the media?

I think it is a matter of consistency; the media can be very fickle and easily forgets. The more contact you have the higher level of trust and communication you can have. I find that the longer I’ve been in this industry, the smaller it seems; it’s important to cherish the contacts that you have and maintain those relationships, it requires work, but pays off to make sure people remember you.

How do you incorporate fashion-forward pieces into your office-appropriate wardrobe?

I have a large collection of vintage clothing and I sometimes find it difficult to pull certain pieces in to a professional setting. I like to pair louder prints with more simple muted pieces to incorporate them. But for the most part if I think I look the part I will just wear what I want. Shoes are the best way to make an outfit work appropriate, if you’re wearing a dress that might seem out of place or has a bold print put on a classic pump and no one will argue you’re dressed perfectly for work. Just make sure nothing you have on it ripped or even fashionable torn, that’s a huge no.

What is your most highly anticipated trend for fall fashion?

I am a huge fan of layering pieces for fall as well as combinations of different textures, even if the colours are muted, it really can make an outfit more interesting when you pair together pieces that have different materials or feel to them. We are seeing a lot of mix and match fabrics for fall which I am very excited about; for example there is a sweater by Attitude Jay Manuel with leather sleeves coming this fall that I am looking forward to.

How do you predict the fashion industry will evolve in the next 5-10 years?

Fast fashion is something that is becoming a bit of a concern to me. With the speed of how fast trends are communicated these days it makes it particularly difficult for retailers to keep up. With fashion blogs and slideshows like Tommy Ton’s street style snaps for, trends are communicated faster than the items can be purchased and delivered to most boutiques. Instant fashion – where a trend is seen and available to the public – is something that I can see becoming even more predominant. From my experience working for a designer, we’re starting to see that boutiques do not want to place orders too early anymore because trends can change so quickly they don’t want to purchase something so far in advance that by the time it’s delivered the public is on to something else. This is complicated for designers because they have to then be able to predict what it going to sell to have it made before an order is confirmed.

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