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Customer Engagement in Stores Proves Challenging for Vera Bradley

Vera Bradley customer engagementFor any retailer, customer engagement and generating store traffic are two crucial strategic components that can often lead to brand loyalty.

As a leading designer of women’s handbags and accessories, luggage and travel items, eyewear, stationery, and gifts, Vera Bradley officials are finding these two components to be a bit challenging.

“During the third quarter, verabradley.com performed solid, but our store sales continue to be challenging,” Vera Bradley CEO Robert Wallstrom said during the company’s Dec. 10 third-quarter financial results conference call. “As you know, generating store traffic continues to be difficult for many retailers, including us. We are in the early stages of our transformation and we’ve made substantial progress over the last three quarters against our strategic plan. We are continuing to modernize and elevate our product assortments, expand our reach to opening new full line and factory outlet stores evolve to made-for-factory format, enhance our online presence and grow our department store relationships. We continue to face short-term challenges, like very weak store traffic, but we believe we’re heading in the right direction and these efforts willVera Bradley customer engagement pay off in the years ahead.”

Wallstrom said the third quarter was a “period of especially important activity” as the company introduced new coordinating collections that further intensified its solid microfiber offerings. What’s more, Vera Bradley launched its leather and faux leather halo collections, enhanced the visual presentation in its full line stores, added a largest collection of factory exclusive products to its factory outlet stores, opened 13 new locations, and ramped up marketing initiatives.

“Much of this activity happened toward the end of the third quarter,” Wallstrom explained. “We are seeing positive customer response to our new products and, although they’re still a small portion of the overall assortment, we hope to attract more new customers to the brand and to gain traction, traffic, and sales. As we move ahead, we’re hopeful that our initiatives will take hold, leading first to stabilization and then to growth in our business.”

Wallstrom realizes this transformation won’t happen overnight.

“We know this will take time, we’re moving faster on pieces of our business that we know are working, like solid microfiber, leather, MFO product, and our department store relationships,” he said. “We remain confident in our five-year strategic plan and the steps we’re taking to evolve our merchandising distribution and marketing of the right ones for the future of the business. I believe we outlined a solid foundation to achieve our five-year target of approximately $1 billion in sales and high-teen operating margins by the fiscal 2019 timeframe.”

Third-quarter same-store sales continue to be negatively impacted by year-over-year declines in store traffic.

In October, Vera Bradley partnered with ShopperTrak, a leading global provider of consumer behavior insights and location-based analytics. Vera Bradley has implemented ShopperTrak’s Perimeter Analytics solution at each of its new U.S. stores this year, with plans to roll out the service across all corporate stores in the coming year.

Vera Bradley plans to use ShopperTrak Perimeter Analytics for a variety of purposes, including predicting its labor model, understanding peak times for stores, and creating a reliable, global platform for consistent data reporting. 

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