Benetton rethinks strategy to target younger shoppers

Canadian fashion retailers have suffered a beating at the hands of tight-fisted consumers over the past several years.But survivors, such as Benetton, have been fighting back, primarily by cutting costs, reducing prices and generally rethinking their product lines.Much has changedMuch has...

Canadian fashion retailers have suffered a beating at the hands of tight-fisted consumers over the past several years.

But survivors, such as Benetton, have been fighting back, primarily by cutting costs, reducing prices and generally rethinking their product lines.

Much has changed

Much has changed at the Canadian operations of Benetton in the last two years.

For starters, the Toronto-based fashion chain has axed 26 poorly performing outlets, reducing its operations to 39 stores from 65.

Additionally, in a bid to attract a younger clientele, the company, which sells 80% of its apparel to women, has cut its prices by 15% to 20%, and significantly altered its merchandise selection.

Mid-30s

Since setting up shop in Canada nine years ago, Benetton has largely stocked its shelves with upper-scale casual and business wear for the mid-30s age group.

But during the last fall and winter fashion seasons, Benetton began to tailor its apparel lines for younger shoppers aged from their teens to their early 30s.

Company spokesperson Connie Centanni says the reduced prices and new demographic focus led to increased sales during the fall and winter seasons, compared with the same period the previous year.

Centanni, who is based in Toronto, says the company will maintain the same approach during the upcoming spring fashion season.

Centanni says Benetton’s shift in focus is driven, in part, by changes in the marketplace.

But she says the changes are also happening because Mauro Benetton, 30, son of company founder Luciano Benetton, has assumed the reins of Benetton’s North American operations.

She says Mauro Benetton, who officially took on his new role at the beginning of the year, has indicated he wants to remake Benetton into a ‘more hip’ fashion destination.

As part of the repositioning, Benetton stores are also being renovated.

Their shiny metal finishings – a holdover from the 1980s – are being replaced with warmer hardwood walls and shelving.

10 stores completed

Centanni says the renovations got under way last year, adding about 10 of the Canadian stores have already been completed.

In the past two years, Benetton has carried out similar renovations in 90% of its European outlets. It is also currently renovating its stores in the u.s.

To further improve its image in the minds of consumers, Benetton in the u.s. earlier this year adopted a more aggressive customer-service stance.

Refunds

Rather than simply offering an exchange on returns, it now offers refunds.

The Benetton name is owned in Canada by Toronto-based Agenco, which owns 50% of every store it opens.