Craig speaks with Dave Nerada, President of Ricki’s and Cleo Fashion, to discuss the changes happening in the women’s fashion brand Ricki’s. They talk about the focus on bringing relevancy back to the brand through a new web platform, improved product quality, and the launch of a new store design. They also mention plans for renovations in current stores and the accessibility of the brand’s price point. The conversation touches on the customer base, the updated website, shipping options, store locations, and future product offerings.
A transcript of the conversation can be found below.
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Featured during this interview:
Craig Patterson 0:03
Welcome to the Retail Insider Video Interview Series. I’m your host, Craig Patterson, and we’re joined here today with a special guest. This is Dave Nerada and he is the President of Ricki’s and Cleo – the women’s fashion brand. Thank you for joining us, Dave.
Dave Nerada 0:17
No problem. Thanks for having me today, Craig, I appreciate it.
Craig Patterson 0:20
Now, let’s quickly talk about yourself. Tell me how did you come into the company, it’s about a year ago, I think it was. What’s your background in retail?
Dave Nerada 0:29
It was just over a year ago, where I joined both sides of the business with Ricki’s and Cleo. But I’m an old school retail guy, I actually got my start a really long time ago as a stock boy in the back of a Club Monaco. And before I realized that I fell in love with the industry and I fell in love with the chance just to take a customer and find a way to connect her to a product where she felt really good. And from that journey, it’s led me along a pretty exciting road where I’ve had a chance to work with some pretty impressive businesses through with Club Monaco to Aldo. Spent some time at YM. Urban Barn, which is a fantastic company, incredibly well run. And then most recently at Princess Auto before I had the chance to join the Ricki’s Cleo team here.
Craig Patterson 1:15
Terrific, terrific. Now, Ricki’s is going through a bit of a change under your direction. Can you tell us about that?
Dave Nerada 1:21
Yeah, you know, the one thing that we’ve really been focusing on over the last little while is about what do we mean to the customer? And how do we really bring relevancy back to some of these really impactful brands. So over the next little while, the customer is going to really get a chance to see what that means. So this week, as an example, we’re launching a new web platform, which is going to just really help to bring some relevancy, remove some ease, and just really show the product in a really different light. We’ve also got new product that’s going to be coming through in fall, where we’ve really focused in on the quality, the texture, the real price value equation, and giving her everything that we can and every one of our products. And then most importantly, what we’re really excited about is a launch of a new store, which is going to be coming this way in August inside of Willowbrook mall, where it’s a whole new design that just talks and feels softer, it feels feminine, but it’s just a place where we believe our customer will feel really comfortable to come and shop and experience the brand that we’re talking about today.
Craig Patterson 2:22
Tell me a bit more about this Willowbrook store, I’m curious to hear what the components are going to be within it.
Dave Nerada 2:30
We’ve paid a lot of attention to just softness and texture, right. I think in many cases, a lot of folks will talk through fixtures and talk through like just the way things are designed. But we really wanted to have a bit more of an emotional connection. We’re going to use a little bit more softer woods, we’re going to tone down some of the color palettes. But just to create a just a little bit more of an elevated experience for the customer as she walks in. Right. So I think it’s a it’s an important thing when a customer comes in and wants to shop with you that you create an experience where she feels really comfortable, and feels really welcome and really warm inside of that space.
Craig Patterson 3:07
Terrific. Are other Ricki stores going to see renovations or what are we going to see in terms of this?
Dave Nerada 3:13
We’re going to slowly start to take components, right. So as we begin to learn, where the customer sees these different components of the brand is at the evolve, take a few of those different pieces and slowly start to introduce them into a lot of our current stores. So if it’s a wood slap wall to soften if it’s, you know, really maybe painting the walls to just pull down some from the white to just a little bit more neutrals, we’re going to slowly through over the next couple of years slowly start to invest a little bit more in some of the components as we start to roll out the concept.
Craig Patterson 3:47
Terrific, terrific. Now, the product itself within the stores is going to be changing a little bit as well tell me about so the clothing that we’ll see. Well, I guess even into the summer here, or is it more fall-winter that we’re gonna be seeing changes with Ricki’s?
Dave Nerada 3:59
Its going to be fall-winter driven, right, like, we truly know that our customer loves coming to us, you know, for that everyday wear to work product, right. And we want to make sure that she can feel the weight and feel the texture behind the the quality of the product that we’re starting to move with. So great example is in some of the sweater programs, really working through to bring some cashmere through some of the blends to feel softness to it, a lot of wool and some of our outerwear to bring the quality back. But the buyers have spent a lot of time into the little details so that when that customer not only touches the product, as she wears the product, she’s going to really feel incredibly different and all while still maintaining, you know, and the goal is maintaining the same price points that we currently sit with today. So really making sure that she feels that the product that she’s getting into is going to last for a long time but also at the same time, feel good and make her feel even more amazing.
Craig Patterson 4:55
And the price point is quite reasonable in terms of – I think that I don’t want to say there isn’t a lot of competition. But certainly, it’s kind of a sweet spot where it mean, it’s not a fast fashion price point. And it’s not a luxury brand either. But it is accessible to many Canadian women, I think, is that correct?
Dave Nerada 5:10
It is. When you start to look at some of the products where you know, a really great fitting pair of black dress pants, you know, at $59.90 or $69.90. In some cases, that $49.90, the team has worked really hard at actually taking a look at the fabrics, looking at the construction, but getting that fit just right for her because nothing beats a perfect black pant. Right? And I think, you know, our customer knows us for that. But at the same time making sure that there’s options, and there’s full outfitting so not only can she come to us for one, but we’ve got teams of people that are ready to help her go a little bit head to toe to make sure that we help her feel really good with what she’s what she’s walking out of the store with.
Craig Patterson 5:51
Is there a particular type of customer that shops at Ricki’s like a bit younger, bit older professional? Tell me about even sort of the psychographics that might be there?
Dave Nerada 6:01
Yeah, I think there’s sometimes a lot of people try to put an age, but I think it’s a moment in time, right? And I think it’s an every day working person who could be a teacher. We talk a lot about how we’ve got a really strong core customer base inside of teachers or educators. People spend a lot of time, you know, teaching our children teaching in our society. But we also have those people that are starting their career. They’re coming into the career, it could be the first time that they’ve got to wear more professional clothing. Or it could be that, they’ve been with us for some time, and they know the fit, they know the quality, and they come to us for that. One thing that we always get excited about is we have a program that’s called 10 items, 10 ways. And what it does is it just helps to show the customer the different ways to wear these outfits and pull them together. So it just makes it easy for her, right? Because we know that our customers busy, we’re all busy, we all want to make sure that we feel great and that we look great. And anytime our team members, or even through digitally where we can help her work her way through that collection. It’s the perfect time and place for us.
Craig Patterson 7:12
Now, tell me about the website, you said that it’s been updated, I had a look earlier and it wasn’t quite finished. And now it is actually up. I was trying to do some homework because I’m obviously not a Ricki’s shopper, being a guy. But I gotta tell me a bit about the website itself and what it entails now.
Dave Nerada 7:27
Yeah, the exciting part is the website is live today. And what we talked about as a team is that the website going up today, step one. Anyone who’s ever done an implementation, we know that it’s about listening. It’s about getting a website that will have better functionality for the customer. It’ll remove some of the friction as you shop through the process to make it a lot easier for you. But what we’re really focused on is just listening to her and as she shopping with us and where she’s spending time, so that we can continue to evolve the experience so that it’s better suited suited to her. But I think the thing that we’re most excited about is the product pages look fantastic. The quality of the imagery is much better. And I think it’s just going to create a different shopping experience, that she’s going to feel really good as she moves through the website.
Craig Patterson 8:14
Excellent, excellent. And things are shipped to the home or a person could possibly pick them up in the store or tell me a little bit about that part of the experience.
Dave Nerada 8:21
Yeah, so right now for us, it’s really about E comm. You know, it’s really that channel. The goal, as we continue to go through the platform, we do have the ability to ship that product to the store. So again, through ease of customer experience. We’re all busy, we all know we have a lot of things going on in our lives. But we’ve always had the capability to fulfill that order from our E commerce center into any of the locations that’s close to her. And we can actually have it delivered to any Ricki’s, any Cleo, or any Bootlegger, because we’re all a family of brands. So it makes it really easy for the customer. We’ve also implemented something that we call in store ordering, which allows for a customer while standing in a store, that if we don’t have that size for them for whatever reason that we will gladly place that order have it brought to the store or sent to their home. So it’s just really about making sure we create ease and remove the friction points. So the customer just gets the best experience that we can offer to her.
Craig Patterson 9:21
Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Now stores themselves. They’re in a mix of locations. You’ve got some shopping centers that are enclosed, you’ve got some, I think even outlet centers and strip malls. Tell me about that. And are we going to see any new stores opening with Ricki’s?
Dave Nerada 9:34
Yeah, I think right now, the biggest thing like a lot of retailers, it’s just really about after the pandemic, settling things down, and about really focusing in. We’re always looking to grow and we’re looking for the right places of where we can connect with our customer. But we believe it’s important to have a good mix of, you know, really strong shopping centers. You know, as an example, if you think of TD center where we’ve got a great Cleo location there, Polo Park, Masonville has some really strong properties. But it’s also great to have a collection of other properties that are, you know, really rural suburban markets that are easy for the customer, where she can still get to. In and out quite fast if there’s a product that she needs to pick up or something that she’s got delivered there. So we’ll always maintain that mix. So for us, it’s settling, it’s really focusing, but ultimately, being really aware of where’s my customer? And how can I actually be there for her to simplify the journey?
Craig Patterson 10:31
Terrific. Is there going to be an expansion in product in terms of clothing offerings, again, not being an expert in terms of footwear, handbags, or tell me a little bit about any sort of new products that are coming with Ricki’s?
Dave Nerada 10:45
Yeah, I think the big thing for us right now is just back to return to the basics of where we where we started, which is really around that where to work. And that’s that percent professional feeling. And then we’re really looking to elevate the casual side of the business a bit differently. So just bringing in some different textures bringing in some different feeling. So it’s not only will she wear it to work, but it’s also a great opportunity to go out to spend some time with her friends. You know, we know our customer, she loves to work, but she loves to laugh, and she loves to have fun with her friends. So you’re going to see a little bit of a return back to that a little bit more elevation, some really great textures and feels. But really back to the basics, Craig. I think that’s what a lot of retailers are trying to focus on. We’re trying to focus on, you know, that’s our brand difference is being that retailer that gives her that great blazer, great bottoms, lots of different options. And then again, just some really great elevated casual for her to spend some time with her friends or go shopping.
Craig Patterson 11:46
And are there any sort of colors that women are gravitating towards? Or are Canadian women a bit more conservative than wearing blacks and browns and grays? What do you see in terms of fashion.
Dave Nerada 11:57
I’m never the guy that talks about those things. You know, I have a super talented team, that is always the one that’s guiding the fashion. But I think the there is just going to be some really subtle neutrals and some soft colors that I think it’s going to really stand true. But I would love to set up some time with you and our GMM, who is by far. I am not the fashion guy. I’m the other one. But again, I think you’re going to see that the customer just wants to return back to quality products, right? I think she wants to find the value behind what it is that she’s pleased with where she’s choosing to make that purchase. But you’re going to start to feel that and see that in some of the textures.
Craig Patterson 12:38
Terrific. Terrific is anything else we should mention about Ricki’s here today? As it embarks on this expansion journey with sounds very exciting.
Dave Nerada 12:46
No, honestly, I just what I’d love to share with the customer is that we constantly listen, and we’ve heard, and we’re really coming back to the roots of you know, who we are and what they expect out of us. But most importantly, is we’re trying to cement all of these digital assets and transformations back to an amazing experience inside of our stores. And we believe that we have an incredibly talented team out in the retail industry that just want to spend that time with the customer and do everything they can to make her feel super special, and feel really connected back to the brand that we’re trying to rebuild.
Craig Patterson 13:21
Thank you so much. This has been a really interesting conversation and learning about fashion learning about retail. I hope everything goes well with Ricki’s and Cleo and Bootleggers as well as this group expands. So thank you so much, David Nerada, the president of Ricki’s and Cleo.
Dave Nerada 13:37
Thanks, Craig. Thanks again for the time.
Craig Patterson 13:39
Great, and I’m Craig Patterson. I’m the founder of retail Insider, and I’m the host here of the Retail Insider Video Interview series. Thank you so much, everyone for joining us here today. Take care and bye for now.
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