The division, which last month took on Sixty Group as its first client, includes an a la carte offering of retail-development services, from store operations and merchandising to accounts payable and retail portfolio management.
“Any brick-and-mortar retailer in 2009 has to be looking at every way to leverage the investments they’ve made,” said David Bensadoun, Aldo’s group VP for global retail. “We see this primarily as a way to leverage our own expertise to help brands in which retail is not their core business.”
Bensadoun said that Sixty Group, which will take advantage of Aldo’s store operations and real estate portfolio management services for the U.S. market, represents Aldo’s target client: “Someone who is already an established brand with good wholesale accounts and a few flagship stores, but who is looking to build a small retail chain of 25 to 100 stores.”
While Aldo probably will not work with direct footwear competitors in the contemporary space, Bensadoun said shoe brands in the comfort, kids’ or discount arena would be targets for its retail services division.
However, he added, complementary specialty brands with little or no footwear, such as Sixty Group, could be the most advantageous match for Aldo. With those types of clients, Bensadoun envisions product collaborations or potential wholesale partnerships for the Aldo brand, which is sold only in its own retail stores. “If we work with the right kinds of brands, it will lead to other opportunities for Aldo,” he said.
Emanuel Weintraub, whose own company, Emanuel Weintraub Associates, serves as a consultant to many fashion brands and retailers, believes Aldo’s advisory service could usher in a whole new business line for enterprising retailers. “Most retailers are having a tough time getting things right themselves right now,” he said. “But for those that are successful, there is undoubtedly a large market of people who will want to be taken through this dangerous [retail] territory, and will pay for it.”
Aldo Group, which was founded 35 years ago, has 1,180 Aldo doors in 42 countries, and 335 other retail locations under the nameplates Spring, Little Burgundy, First and Globo. All its stores focus on men’s and women’s contemporary footwear.
Weintraub contends that in the current environment, where large companies are squeezing out smaller vendors, a vertical retail network is a must. “Retailers are growing their presence in a small stable of large brands and expanding private labels,” he said. “In the future, to be a successful vendor, you will have to have a strong vertical retail presence.”
Until Aldo establishes itself as a successful outsourcer, though, he continued, the company’s credibility will be in question.
“Can this retailer do for you what it has already done for itself?” Weintraub asked. “The idea is very timely, but whether or not they can pull it off is another question.”