I’ve been an on-again, off-again customer at your stores since I first started working in Big Corporations in 1988. Although fashion no longer defines me, humans are still wearing clothing when they venture out into the world and I’m human. The purpose of my letter is to tell you to “knock it off” with your fire sales; I know it’s an attempt to restore the Talbots brand, but as a woman right in your demographic wheelhouse (the fast growing 35+ demographic), I’m not impressed with your shenanigans.
When I was younger, the “Talbots brand” represented a certain look; a plaid skirt, a white blouse, and a crew neck sweater. I liked this look and I still have an old plaid skirt and sweater I bought at one of your now-defunct regional competitors back in the 80’s.
In those days, I was hesitant to open the red Talbots door, for your sales staff was often snobby and off-putting to a tired-looking cubicle toiler, zipping in from the office with her old Bermuda bag she bought in high school. Most of the time, I didn’t buy anything, but I kept peering into the windows and hoping someday I might be able to save my pennies and buy a few classic pieces which would last for the rest of my life. I was thinking of some cashmere sweaters, some wool skirts, and maybe a blazer or two. Though I was not “to the manor born” these articles of clothing transcended arbitrary fashionable town boundaries. Lasting quality was my game, even at an age when I should have been buying parachute pants and cowl neck sweaters.
Unfortunately, over the years, I stopped peering into your windows. Why? Because they were cloudy, that’s why. You strayed from your roots in Hingham, Massachusetts. Like every other retailer, you thought everyone in the world wanted to dress like Nancy Talbot. The market told you to get big or get out. Factories were off-shored and it was harder to keep a finger on the pulse of quality. You tried to be someone you were not.
It’s the story of many iconic brands.
I visited your Stratham, NH location on Saturday; I just wanted a very simple black sleeveless turtleneck. Cashmere would have been nice, or even ribbed cotton. The store was bubbling with activity. The staff was mostly attentive and eager to tell shoppers that everything was 40% off. A bored gentleman sat in the upholstered chair by the door, waiting for his wife or girlfriend while he scanned his i-phone. All seemed right in the Talbots world.
I overheard one customer in the fitting room ask “is everything ok with the store?” Perhaps she has not paid much attention to the iconic brand in the last few years and so is alarmed by the constant fire sale posters in the windows and the never-ending e-blasts announcing the latest combination of deals and discounts. When will you start paying me to wear your clothes?
I know the folks from Sycamore Partners say they are “looking forward to a long and successful partnership” but I’m not sure. I did buy a cashmere sweater on Saturday; doing my part for the war effort. It was deeply discounted and I don’t think it will stand the test of time. If it lasts for a few years, I will be happy. When it starts to fall apart, I will cut it up and make some kind of cute patchwork hat or maybe some gloves. I have a sewing machine and a glove pattern; I can read instructions.
Back in the 80’s, I did buy a black lined wool pencil skirt at your store and I have it still. It stood the test of time and the mercurial ups and downs of holiday weight. I’m going to wear it today with the cashmere sweater.
I’m not sure everything is “all right” in the Talbots world. Thank you for this wonderful skirt and the memories, though. I’ll continue to stop into your store in Stratham from time to time, but I’ll also keep haunting the consignment shop up the road, searching for a few things that might stand the test of time.
Best to you,
Julie-Ann Baumer, aka “Aunt Tomato”
P.S. I like your old label better; the big red “T” might work well for Aunt Tomato’s brand of shenanigans. Is it for sale? Everything else seems to be.