Gant no longer wants to be a fashion retail brand.
Not just a fashion retail brand anyway. It wants to be so much more.
CEO Patrik Nilsson is on record with an intention to make Gant the world’s leading lifestyle brand by 2020.
A cynic could argue that it’s an easy thing to say; that lacking in detail or any kind of meaningful metric, it’s a somewhat empty pledge.
Nilsson set the goal in September 2015. Brian Grevy arrived as Gant’s first CMO from Adidas nine months later to shoulder the responsibility to make it a reality.
At Adidas, he was general manager of the sports brand’s largest global business division; the ‘training’ unit that commanded net sales of around €3.7bn and 300 employees.
Now 10 months into his new role at Gant, Grevy says he was initially seduced by the history of the company and has since been enthralled by the remit of his job. The role sees product creation merged into the marketing operation giving Grevy what he describes as a genuinely end-to-end view of the business. And after installing a new organizational structure to meet the strategic aim set by his boss, Grevy says Gant is “fit and ready to take on the future.”
So, what does the path to becoming the world’s leading lifestyle brand look like? And how will success be measured? In revenue?
“It’s a really good question,” admits Grevy, “it’s certainly not a revenue dialogue. We see commercial success as the result of what we plan to do, not the starting point.”
Grevy says becoming the world’s leading lifestyle brand is more about how well the clothing company delivers a connected and seamless journey for every one of its customers across all touch points; he says it’s about the product innovation Gant aims to bring to the world and the ways it can find to move the dial on “new” customer services.
“We believe if we do all that the net sales result will follow. But no, you don’t start by saying I want to do €20 billion by 2020. The consumer is and will remain the center for everything we do.”
Indeed, the customer plays such a large role at Gant that he or she is often represented in high-level internal meetings by an empty seat in the room. “That way, the consumer is always around the table,” says Grevy. “When we discuss transformational business decisions it reminds us to remain absolutely customer-centric.”
Transformation is high on the agenda at Gant right now. Grevy says that if the journey the company is on was represented by a scale of one to 10, with 10 being where the fashion retailer wants to get to, currently the brand is somewhere between one and two.
The future and its possibilities are constantly on Grevy’s mind. “I sit with our I.T. director weekly and debate the priorities. ‘If I want to do this or that in five years time, how do we ensure that what we buy today is actually fitting for our future capability needs?’
This twin focus on the customer and the future was a key driver behind the creation of Tech Prep – a new range of clothes that play to Gant’s signature preppy style but allows wearers to be as active as they want to without fear of getting sweaty.
“We looked at our customers’ behavior and saw more activity: more cycling, more commuting. We wanted to give them products with technology built into the clothing so that they can get on a bicycle on their way to work or rush to a meeting and still look and feel fresh and comfortable.”
Since its internal launch, Tech Prep has emerged as a key platform for Gant with more innovation to come, says Grevy.
“We started with shirts because that’s where the company was born. But we have all the product groups lined up now and we are developing materials and fabrics and fits.”
It’s not just in product that Gant is innovating. The business is experimenting in retail formats too. At 100 Wall Street in New York City you’ll find the Gant Lounge where customers go by appointment for style consultations but not necessarily to buy. Instead, they go for an experience, to enjoy a glass of whiskey and try new products in stock.
“With the Gant Lounge we wanted to test a new format for how to make a customer experience much more personal. We took a showroom, normally a closed space for us to sell into wholesale partners and transformed it into an open space where you can book time with staff that can help you style yourself.
“But we’re providing more than just a styling element in there. It might be that you want to know about the best restaurants or where to get your tailoring done. We want to create an extended concierge service to drive a much closer connection with consumers. You can buy everything on the internet today and it’ll take an hour to come. But at the Lounge you’ll have a personal experience where we cater for you, we listen to you and hopefully you’ll walk away with nice outfits and feel a bit closer to Gant.”
Grevy says that as CMO it is his responsibility to keep Gant connected with innovations, stories and new technologies occurring elsewhere outside the company. “I’m a curious person by nature. I read a lot and listen to everyone and anyone. I engage with two different business schools and go to talk with young people about digitalization and their vision of the future. We ask: “What would you do if you were sitting in my shoes at Gant?””
Whatever the future holds, Grevy says he is determined to bring consumers inside the business to co-create it with the company.
“I believe if you walk into a Gant store five years from now you’ll have the staff there and they’ll know your profile and what you’re looking for. You’ll go to the changing room with the products already there because they know your sizes. There will be suggestions on a digital screen in the changing room for relevant things to buy alongside the item you’re trying on.
“The entire store will be digitalized – the windows will personalize depending on the demographics of pedestrians walking by on the street.”
Grevy is completely bought into Nilsson’s vision. There are a plethora of changes and innovations coming down the line that he feels will move Gant meaningfully towards becoming the world’s number one lifestyle brand.
“You can’t just be sitting in your own bubble anymore think about how to make beautiful clothes. You have to look to other industries and find relevant connections, things you can learn. Look at what Tesla and Elon Musk have done, what Branson has done, what Apple and Red Bull have done. These are brands that have crossed territories and done things that are significantly different. We want to investigate what we can learn from them. What does the future look like to them?”
Grevy says the role of CMO at Gant is to challenge – to constantly ask: ‘What if?’
“If every decision is going to be centered around the consumer, you are urged to go out and look for new opportunities, new information. You have to think in different ways. That’s my biggest job here, to ensure that my teams across all functions work collectively towards the consumer for that seamless consumer journey.”
“A lot of fashion and lifestyle companies have a creative lead and they have a brand marketing person. The creative director is the lead of the company. We don’t look at it like that here. We have Gant, we have a Gant customer and we have functional teams all with the purpose of leaning towards that customer. My job is to ensure that everyone is clear on where we are going, what we’re going to do and what winning looks like.”