The Children's Place is expanding store closures amidst a rise in same store sales, as it continues its e-commerce push. Expected closures will expand by another 100 doors, bringing total expected store closures to 300 stores by 2020, and the company warns this number may increase. E-commerce penetration is already close to 20%, according to the retailer.
The apparel retailer saw comparable retail sales jump 6.9% in Q4 2016. It also recently announced its $250 million share repurchase program and increased the company’s quarterly dividend from $0.20 per share to $0.40 per share.
In its wholesale business, the retailer launched its replenishment program with Amazon in Q3 of 2016 and launched on China's Tmall in October of 2016. In other international markets, it opened 48 new points of distribution in 2016 bringing the total to 150 points of distribution in 17 countries (these include stores, shop-in-shop and e-commerce websites operated by its partners).
The Children's Place also re-launched its loyalty program in 2016 in conjunction with a new private label credit card program. The company noted in the first four months it opened over 239,000 new accounts, representing approximately a 20% increase in private label credit card holders.
"Based on published reports, digital influence in children’s apparel is growing at a faster pace than in other categories," said Jane Elfers, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Because of this, delivering an engaging, seamless brand experience is critical. We know that our omnichannel customers spend significantly more than our single-channel customers. We see mobile as the cornerstone of our digital strategy. And when designing and developing our digital experience, our starting point is to optimize the mobile experience."
One of the retailer's biggest strategic initiatives in 2017 is its digital transformation effort with the goal of best-in-class customer personalization. To achieve this goal the company is working on three things: omnichannel initiatives, architectural upgrade, and customer segmentation.
Omnichannel Initiatives: The company piloted its first omnichannel initiative, reserve online pick up in store (ROPIS) in 100 stores across 3 states in the third quarter of 2016.
"Customer engagement in ROPIS is building and we are seeing upsized transactions as customers add additional items in-store to their original online order," said Elfers. "Currently, we are experiencing a 3-to-1 attachment rate to the units being reserved online for transactions that include an attachment."
The retailer plans to launch Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) in Q2 of 2017. It will also begin to pilot connected store initiatives in the third quarter of 2017, which will open up new avenues for associates to engage customers.
Architectural Upgrade: The Children's Place will migrate to a new platform architecture to meet customer needs using a phased approach during 2017, allowing for multiple systems releases.
Customer Segmentation: Segmentation efforts for the retailer continue to be focused on a deep understanding of customers and their shopping patterns.
"Through detailed analysis of their interactions with us, we will develop a segment based customer contact strategy to optimize marketing investment and activate growth and share of wallet," explained Elfers. "In addition, we have started to build a robust data infrastructure and advanced analytics organization, which we will leverage to better understand and predict our customer’s behavior."
The Children's Place hopes these initiatives will help it personalize customer interactions.