Bringing the Customer Experience to the Forefront
With its investment in premium retailer J. McLaughlin, consumer-focused PE firm Brentwood Associates is continuing its strategy of working with brands that “provide unique customer experiences and create exceptional loyalty,” says Brentwood partner Steve Moore.
Consumer-focused private equity firm Brentwood Associates has discerning taste when it comes to its apparel and retail acquisitions. The firm recently added Brooklyn-based J. McLaughlin to its portfolio of high-end apparel companies that includes Allen Edmonds, Marshall Retail Group, Soft Surroundings, Sundance, and Z Gallerie.
“We have a lot of experience in the apparel and retail industries,” says Brentwood Associates partner Steve Moore. “We play across channels, and we are focused on helping companies enhance their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts. We can help J. McLaughlin expand their footprint nationally, both online and offline.”
The clothing company is known for its nostalgic and classic style of American fashion, and Moore says two of the main attractions to the brand are its ability to offer unique in-store customer experiences and the fierce brand loyalty customers have demonstrated.
With more than 100 stores sprinkled around the U.S., J. McLaughlin is not quite a household name nationally, but that’s about to change, says Moore.
“We see a clear path to at least doubling the number of stores and we can also add value with our experience in direct marketing,” he says. “There’s still a ton of white space and a lot of area to grow, and we have significant expertise in these areas. We hope our experience will help the company invest more aggressively in direct marketing.”
Brentwood likes to play in the lower middle market, with the majority of its investments going to companies with between $50M and $300M in annual sales. And while many investors have the tendency to acquire iconic brands in order to license intellectual property for cash flow, Moore says a major part of the firm’s strategy is to find brands they can help to grow.
“We prefer to buy a brand that’s already doing really well with consumers and then build upon that loyalty and increase awareness,” he says. “We also like businesses that own and control their brands, from manufacturing or sourcing through retail. We like to control our own destiny.”
To that end, J. McLaughlin designs its own products and maintains quick-turn manufacturing capabilities, then sells the products in its own stores, thereby owning the distribution channel.
Moore says that’s a typical business Brentwood is interested in, but he also has seen new spending trends heading into 2016.
“There’s no question the way consumers interact with brands is evolving, and the pace at which it’s evolving is accelerating,” he says. “The biggest change we’ve seen over the last five or 10 years, that will certainly continue, is consumers demanding a far better and more integrated online experience.”
Brentwood Associates partner Steve Moore explains how the firm is looking to expand premium apparel retailer J. McLaughlin after its acquisition.