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A Lesson from The Limited

(February 2017) posted on Mon Feb 20, 2017

The apparent demise of a once-hot retailer also serves as a cautionary tale for the hospitality sector.


By Matthew Hall

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Earlier in my career, while working as a business reporter in Columbus, Ohio, I wrote more than a few stories about the then-proliferation of The Limited, a locally based specialty apparel retailer that took its name from its focused selection of on-trend merchandise. I remember attending one of The Limited’s annual meetings, which resembled a raucous pep rally where the workers in attendance—dubbed under the then-new moniker “associates”—treated founder Les Wexner like a rock star.

Wexner founded The Limited as a single store in suburban Columbus in 1963, and by the mid 1990s, it had grown to have about 750 stores. But during the past decade, that number shriveled to about 250, and all those remaining outlets were closed just after the New Year started. (Wexner, it should be noted, apparently saw the writing on the wall, selling The Limited a decade ago to Sun Capital Partners in order to focus on the company’s other divisions, which had grown to include Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works.)

Here’s the lesson that hoteliers, restaurateurs and others in the hospitality sector should take from this: “The Limited failed to change their approach to a rapidly changing consumer,” Liz Dunn, ceo of retail consulting firm Talmadge Advisors told The Wall Street Journal. “Their stores were too big, their assortment wasn’t that special and the brand became stale.”

Bottom line for any consumer-facing business: Stale brand = Dead brand. But there is some good news here. From what I’m seeing, lots of established hotel brands are not resting on their laurels and are enlisting the design community in a major push to keep things fresh. Want proof? Check out some of the innovation initiatives hoteliers have been undertaking in the “Tech Talk” feature I wrote for our current edition.
 


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