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The CIO of Brooks Brothers reveals the secret to long term relevance 

“If you’ve been successful for almost two centuries and want to be relevant for the next two, you need a plan,” says Sahal Laher, EVP and CIO of Brooks Brothers.

From single channel to no channel

“We’re living in a demand and deliver world. ‘I demand, and you deliver’ is the motto of today’s consumers.” According to Sahal, retail in the old days was simple. You had a storefront; people came in. Whatever product was there got sold. Over time we’ve moved to a multi-channel landscape including stores, catalogs, call centers and websites. But they are all operating in silos. Call center operators don’t have visibility into customer data on websites and vice versa. That has to change if you want to keep customers in today’s hyper-connected world.

We’re seeing an evolution from single to multiple channels, from the omni channel to the point of nirvana where the customer does not see any channels but only products,” he adds.

Addressing key trends

Sahal says the way young people shop and interact with brands is different than baby boomers and other generations. “We must be a lifestyle brand appealing to multiple demographics if we want to stay relevant for the next 200 years.”

Personalization of retail is one way to do that. Tools and technology enable retailers to have deep insight into their customers buying habits. But maximizing the customer experience is a fine line.

“We don’t use data to be big brother. We want to use it in a meaningful way for consumers to shop. Our business is focused on personalized, white glove service. Once we have your measurements we can fulfill orders on a much shorter time frame. You don’t even have to come into the store. You can shop on Saturday night on the website.”

The brand is everything

Fulfillment flexibility is a big challenge. Sahal believes Amazon sets the tone, and every single retailer that wants to stay in business has to adapt.With twelve more fulfillment centers, Amazon will reach 50 percent of the US population with same day delivery.

“We must keep up. Brooks Brothers is now piloting a same day courier service in New York with Uber to increase our reach to customers. Maybe five years from now, you’ll get your shirt droned to you!”

The brand is a key differentiator. Brooks Brothers has 600 stores worldwide doing business in different cultures. Customers relate to the preppy American
image and have high expectations regarding quality and craftsmanship. “People are proud to see that many of our products are actually made in the USA where we have three factories,” says Sahal.

Succeeding in a global environment requires consistency. “Our plan is to have a 5 year brand strategy and map our IT strategy to that. Process is the lowest common denominator, so we’ve blueprinted our SAP system based on our processes to have a reusable, scalable solution for all geographies.”

With five year plans like that, Brooks Brothers will still be a leader in 2215!