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Lane Bryant introduces in-store ‘stylists’


A specialty apparel retailer is making it even easier for its customers to shop the latest looks.

Lane Bryant, a division of apparel giant Ascena Retail Group, is launching an in-store personal styling service. Called LaneStyle Studio, the program features a team of personal shoppers that will assist customers throughout their store visits.

Customers can make an appointment for a free consultation where stylists are tasked with learning about shopper preferences and helping to pinpoint her personal style. Stylists will track down sizes of shoppers’ preferred merchandise, and help customers to find which apparel features the perfect fit.

The service is being introduced at launch parties across selected stores on July 28 and June 29. The chain operates a total of 776 Lane Bryant stores.

The personal stylist program comes at a time when Lane Bryant’s parent company is trying to navigate among an increasingly changing landscape, including lower foot traffic. This is one factor that is forcing Ascena to close “hundreds of stores,” however it is uncertain which brands will be affected, according to president and CEO David Jaffe.

Ascena currently operates over 4,800 stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Jaffe said the company will close more than 250 locations by July. An additional 400 stores could close if the company can't negotiate reduced rent with landlords.

The competitive marketplace also took a toll on Ascena’s third quarter earnings. The company, which also operates brands such as Ann Taylor and Dressbarn, reported a net loss of $1.031 billion, or $5.29 per diluted share in its third quarter, ended April 29, which included a non-cash, pre-tax impairment charge of $1.3 billion to write down the company’s goodwill and other intangible assets. This compared to net income of $15 million last year, or $0.08 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.

Net sales fell to $1.565 billion, down from $1.669 billion in the year-ago period. Total same-store sales fell 8% amid a decline in store traffic across all brands.

Jaffe said the chain's third quarter performance reflected an extremely competitive market environment, characterized by persistent store traffic declines and intense commercial activity. And he sees no let-up in sight.

"We expect these factors will remain major headwinds for the foreseeable future and reflect an accelerated shift to consumer demand toward e-commerce,” Jaffe said. "Responding to the shift requires fundamental changes in retail operating model, and we’ve made significant progress toward transforming our business to compete in this new environment."

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