Lizanne Kindler returned to Talbots as President of the brand in August 2012. She was then promoted to CEO of Talbots on February 28th, 2014. An accomplished merchant with experience in both store-based and online retailing, she previously served as the Executive Vice President of Product Development at Kohl’s Department Stores.
How did you get into the fashion industry?
I am originally from Denmark. When I was 11 years old, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to visit my aunt who was the President of the department store, Garfinkels. She brought me to work with her and walked me through the store and the buying offices. It was the most exciting experience for me and the exact moment that I fell in love with fashion. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to pursue a career in this field.
Tell us about Talbots. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
Talbots is an iconic, American brand. It was founded in 1947 by Nancy and Rudolph Talbot, originally as a mail order business. Nancy Talbot believed in offering timeless, fashionable, chic, but understated clothing. I believe her style sensibility is still evident in our assortment today and her legacy is still very much a part of our culture.
Looking to the future, we want to be the destination for women who have a modern classic style sensibility and be available to her however and whenever she may shop – in store, via catalog or online. And it is not just about increasing sales. We want to be a destination for our customers and find ways to inspire them, create lasting relationships with them, and be their first choice to outfit every aspect of their lives from casual to dressy, staying in and going out. Whatever she is wearing from her closet, we want for it to be Talbots.
What strategic partnerships have you implemented that have attributed to Talbot's success?
What I am most proud of is that we are continuing the legacy of keeping the local feel to our stores through our Local Event strategy. This allows our stores to partner with local organizations for charitable fundraisers, co-branded events, and community outreach. It strengthens our relationships with our customers in those markets and with the community, and creates an incredible opportunity for our associates as well.
On a national level, strategic partnerships have not been a focus to date, but stay tuned! I suspect there is more to come.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
The first thing is the concept of omni-channel retailing...being available to your customers whenever, wherever and however they shop. The great news is that Talbots, at its core, has always been a multi-channel business, with our roots in direct. I can tell you that our focus will be on driving, equally, each channel of our business – direct, online and in store. Some people question whether bricks and mortar stores will eventually go away, but we believe that customers will always want the experience of walking into a store, particularly if the story is compelling and goes beyond the simple act of buying clothes.
The second trend is product specific and relates to the emergence active leisure wear pieces like yoga leggings, luxury sweatpants and sweatshirts for daily wear. While our customers are not necessarily going out in their yoga pants, we do believe there is a way to interpret this trend in a uniquely Talbots way with an ‘athleisure’ collection we are launching this spring called “T by Talbots”.
You can’t possibly know everything...and that’s okay. If you accept this fact, three things happen:
1. You become more confident by letting go of the insecurity around not knowing everything.
2. You open yourself up to learning new things every single day.
3. You have the opportunity to surround yourself with smart people who know what you do not know...and you learn from each other.
“Always take care of your customer and the business will take care of itself.” Those are the words of Nancy Talbot and nearly seventy years later, they still ring true in our business.
Your greatest success as CEO of Talbots? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
The greatest challenge and the greatest success are one in the same. When I joined this business in September of 2012, it was on the verge of going out of business, which would have been a tragic course of events for a brand with such a legacy. Since then, Talbots has gone from a negative profit to a positive profit in less than 24 months, thanks to our shared commitment to stay focused, prioritize and not being afraid to make decisions. And to be clear, this is not my success. These results are because of each and every one of the 8,000+ Talbots associates across the country.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Love what you do and believe in it, otherwise why are you doing it? And remember that things will not always go as planned, but that is not the time to give up. You have to re-direct and keep going. That’s when the magic happens.
How do you motivate your employees?
I trust my people...period. Yes, I work to set clear objectives and goals, communicate clearly and often, and try to keep things simple. But knowing that you are trusted to do your job and do it well is an incredible motivator. After that? We have fun and celebrate successes.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Haagan Daz Vanilla Ice Cream, sparkling water and lots of strong, black
What literature is on your bed stand?
For The Head - real newspapers...I am one of the few people left who loves the tactile feel of the newsprint in my hands. I am actually a news junkie. I also have a copy of Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds. And for the heart? Out of Africa. I can read it over and over again. Such a beautiful story.
Role model - business and personal?
My business role model was my clearly my aunt. She was extremely driven, very confident, and people loved and admired her (including me!). She passed away ten years ago, but I still think of her every day. My personal role models are my parents. My parents are both deaf and this disability never prevented them from leading amazing lives. They are never afraid to travel or talk to people, nothing ever stopped them. Their perseverance is remarkable...and it continues still today!
My husband and my two children.
Most interesting headline you've read this week?
With no disrespect to the journalism trade, I am not a fan of headlines. I like the whole story. Often times the headlines are so overtly negative. In the text you find the humanity.
What's next for Talbots?
Talbots will be a lifestyle brand, becoming more and more a part of our customers’ lives. I definitely see opportunity in exploring other categories besides apparel. We recently launched a fragrance and it was very successful. And I believe this is only the beginning of great things to come.
Before that, she was Executive Vice President of Merchandising and General Merchandise Manager at Talbots. She joined the Company in 2008 as Senior Vice President and was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2010. At Talbots, she oversaw the merchandising strategy and direction for its core apparel, shoe and accessory businesses.
Lizanne previously served as Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager for the Loft brand, a division of the Ann Taylor Stores Corporation. During her 15-year tenure at Ann Taylor, she held roles of increasing responsibility within merchandising and operations, including Vice President of Sportswear, Petites, Swim & Sleepwear for Loft and Senior Director and Director of Merchandising for AnnTaylor.com.