RW&Co. makes a pitch to reach entrepreneurs

The apparel retailer brings two Dragons into its spring campaign to breathe life into a struggling sector.
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RW&Co. is championing entrepreneurship in a new campaign led by two Dragons as it continues to broaden its product assortment and attempts to capture a new gap in the market left by other retailers.

“Ready to Reimagine” is a digitally-led effort featuring Dragons’ Den panelists Manjit Minhas and Lane Merrifield. In the campaign, the two entrepreneurs tout a “time for new beginnings” and laud the courage of small business owners, carrying on the RW brand tradition of prominent ambassadors and pitch people like NHLers P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson.

The brand’s target audience has traditionally been the active working population and the current effort aims to get customers to reimagine their professional futures through shared stories and mentorship, according to Michele Slepekis, VP of marketing at the Reitmans-owned clothier.

The lean into entrepreneurship was an outgrowth of the brand’s 2018 “Coast to Coast” initiative, which highlighted Canadian cities and landscapes and “haphazardly came upon Canadian entrepreneurs” in every city it visited, realizing their importance to local communities, she says.

When the pandemic struck, RW&Co put out a survey asking its customers to vote for their favourite entrepreneurs, spurring the “Ready to Reimagine” campaign, in which an array of small business owners in the natural cosmetics, fitness, food and retail space get a chance to get one-on-one consults with the Dragons.

“Lane and Manjit are wearers of our brand,” Slepekis says. It makes perfect sense they’re part of our team, and here to mentor 13 entrepreneurs voted in by the community.”

The campaign also includes a new TED Talk partnership, a natural fit for its target demo, Slepekis says, as everyone is looking for a form of mentorship, and there’s lots of inspirational content on the popular platform.

The pandemic also had work wear-focused RW&Co. reimagining its product assortment, expanding into leisure and casual wear with its Aug. 2020 “Work from Anywhere” campaign.

According to the most recent Stats Canada data, clothing and accessories store sales were down 12.5% for the 3 months ending November 2020. And a number of high-profile retailers are no more, such as Le Chateau, which is shuttering its operations, and J Crew, which is exiting Canada.

While RW&Co. parent company Reitmans is also currently under creditor protection – and has closed its Thyme Maternity and Addition Elle banners – changes in the retail market present an opportunity for RW&Co. to fill in some of that gap,  Slepekis says, because it has opened up the breadth of what it carries.

“We are casting a wider net with reimagining our product assortment. We see it as one-stop shopping now, where before it was just for workwear,” Slepekis says. She believes the new normal will include working from coffee shops, picnic tables and other non-traditional locations in addition to the office space once COVID subsides.

Ad spend for the campaign is a bit higher than last year, but “not a huge amount,” she admits, as a small brand driving top-of-funnel.

The creative was done in-house by an agency the company developed several years ago. The apparel retailer partnered with BICOM for PR support, and Rebl House, a Montreal creative agency, handled the video.