I was having lunch at Panera in Sandhill Saturday when I heard someone in an adjacent booth talking about a clothing store that had closed shop recently. I didn't catch the name, but when I stepped outside I saw that it must have been Talbots on the other side of the street that sparked the conversation.
As I hate shopping for clothes in general, and am even more clueless about women's clothes, I really had no mental picture of where Talbots fit on the retail map. A bit of googling however revealed that it is a somewhat upscale chain largely for women over 30, and has been struggling financially for a while now.
There 's an old story, probably apocryphal, about a feed company that hired a top ad agency to design a campaign to sell its dog food. The ads were brilliant, won awards and everyone loved them, but sales plummeted. The company finally hired a troubleshooter who investigated and issued a succinct report: "The dogs don't like the dog food".
The Wall Street Journal gives as delicate a version of that quote as I have ever heard in the words of Talbots's CEO:
The predominant factors impacting our results were an inconsistent customer response to our merchandise assortments..
The article also goes on to posit a lose/lose situation:
The apparel retailer has been trying to freshen the look of its merchandise and broaden its appeal beyond its core audience of older women. But the approach may be turning them off while also not bringing in new customers.
Other papers speculate that the chain may be heading for a takeover, and mention that it is closing 110 of its 568 stores.
Talbots had three stores in the Columbia area. This one, one on Forest Drive and one on Saint Andrews Road. I drove by the Forest Drive store this evening and it is still there. I have not been by the Irmo location.