Harry Rosen Sees Ecommerce Explosion Amid Pandemic: Ian Rosen Interview

Retail industry news delivered directly to you. Subscribe to Retail-Insider.

Iconic luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen has built its successful business over the last seven decades focused around personalized interactions with clients.

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with its mandatory closures and public health measures, has dramatically changed the retail landscape in the country, and Harry Rosen has been at the forefront in the industry in accelerating its digital transformation to meet the changing marketplace.

Ian Rosen, Executive Vice-President of Digital and Strategy for the company, said its online sales grew in 2020 by almost three times.

“Our online storefront is now our largest storefront and we don’t expect it to go back. And it shot up to just over 20 percent of our business,” he said, adding that the e-commerce site has more sales than its flagship stores on Bloor Street in Toronto and CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver.

Rosen, who has been in his current role since June 2018, said the company was seeing sales growth in its e-commerce initiatives prior to the pandemic.

“We just happened to hit 2023 targets in 2020,” he said.

Harry Rosen (Founder), Ian Rosen (Vice President of Digital and Strategy), and Larry Rosen (Chairman and CEO). Photo: CNW Group/Harry Rosen Inc.

“I think there will be a level set but the way in which our business has grown has been I think a little bit different than others who have seen the big increase in e-commerce. So obviously we’ve seen a number of transactions move onto our digital channels and we’ve acquired a number of new clients who have never shopped with us before through our online channel.

“But we’ve also digitized a lot of our relationships between our clothing advisors, our team that works in the stores and their clients, and moved those online. One of the things that we were working on pre-pandemic and optimized during the pandemic is the idea that if I were your clothing advisor, rather than you going to the website and browsing for things, we’ve actually enabled our team to be able to curate the website, down to your sizes. Perhaps you have a particular style. I can send it over to you with a few clicks of a button and you can check it out.”

Recently, Harry Rosen chose the Qualtrics XM Platform to digitize and scale its retail model and deliver more targeted and personalized experiences to shoppers and employees across the business.

“Our philosophy as a company has always been to listen to the client. What made my grandfather so successful when he started the business was starting to collect modern CRM-type information from a client. He’d put that on a Post-It note and he had a big Rolodex. He would remember your birthday. He would remember your significant other’s name and he’d remember your kids’ names and their birthdays. That kind of led to a lot of loyalty,” said Ian Rosen.

“So kind of embedded in our DNA has been this idea of know your customer, listen to your customer, always be there to reach out to them. However, one of the things that’s become more and more challenging as our business has grown is getting real time, consistent, in the moment feedback from our teams and being able to act on that in a coordinated way.

“So when we started to look at our strategy moving forward we asked whose guidance are we going to follow. Are we going to work off of the customers giving us feedback or are we going to go proactively ask for more feedback? Our executive team as well as our leaders in the customer experience side of the business said we learn 10 times more when we get unsolicited feedback or when we send out a quick survey and we’ll learn two or three things and a steady manageable stream of that would be insanely valuable for us.”

Highly-interactive Harry Rosen website.

Ian Rosen said the company has partnered with Qualtrics to integrate their solution into its business with a commitment to getting customer feedback.

With Qualtrics, Harry Rosen will use deep customer insights from areas such as shopping preferences, packaging, and delivery and post-purchase to continuously elevate both its in-store and online experience. The retailer will apply these insights across the business, including — but not limited to — merchandise selection, store & e-commerce experience, marketing communications, and clothing advisor training.

The menswear brand is also boosting its employee experience program, leveraging Qualtrics to get to the heart of workforce feedback and concerns and quickly identify where action needs to be taken.

“For 67 years, everything we’ve achieved has been anchored by our people doing whatever it takes to help our clients in big and important moments,” said Ian Rosen. “Qualtrics allows us to scale up what we’re good at by keeping us focused on what matters — and by getting us the data and information to help us mobilize and act as quickly as possible.

“The pandemic has really pushed us as leaders to understand that the reality our employees are facing is changing, it’s uncertain, and having a feedback mechanism for them to give us input, for them to bring light to where perhaps somebody’s leadership style isn’t translating into a remote environment as well as they were in person, and their team is feeling a little bit stressed by the situation, we can pick that up in surveys and action against it. We also could just monitor morale.

Interior of Harry Rosen store at Square One Shopping Centre. Photo: Harry Rosen

“One of the benefits we have of being a ‘legacy’ company . . . we’ve reinvented ourselves before. We’ve had to confront market conditions and changes and client behaviours and changes maybe not to this level of acceleration but it actually was the muscle that we had built over the years. So we had a pretty big ship to turn and pivot with and we actually were pretty successful in orienting people around it at different ways of thinking of our business. Digital is going to be the first touch point that we prepare for. So we need to make sure that we’re encouraging customers to engage with our digital properties, we’re encouraging our staff to engage with it, we’re encouraging the information to be up to date, accurate, and translate into the different systems. That’s kind of like the marketplace and the stores are a place where people come to pick things up or have a different type of shopping experience. I prefer the word transformation than pivot because I think pivot means you can pivot back. It’s true transformation in the way we think about our business.”

Qualtrics is the world’s No. 1 Experience Management (XM) platform and creator of the XM category, with over 13,500 organizations around the world using it to listen, understand, and take action on experience data — the beliefs, emotions, and intentions that tell you why things are happening, and what to do about it. Its platform is a system of action that helps businesses attract customers who stay longer and buy more, engage employees who build a positive culture, develop breakthrough products people love, and build a brand people are passionate about.

“The companies who have emerged as leaders in the face of COVID-19 are constantly listening to their customers and employees, acting quickly on the insights, and closing feedback loops at a higher rate than others,” said Jay Choi, Chief Product Officer, Qualtrics. “Harry Rosen has always shown an industry-leading commitment to creating flawless experiences — and with Qualtrics, they can leverage the digital tools and insights necessary to broaden their reach and drive meaningful results by serving customers at every step of the journey.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

More From The Author

US-Based Second-Hand Electronics Retailer ‘PayMore’ to Enter Canada with Rapid Store...

The retailer obtains and repurposes old electronics to recirculate them into the marketplace, and is expanding into Canada with stores that aim to gain market share rapidly.

Anatomy of a Leader: Sarah Segal, CEO of DAVIDsTEA

Segal discusses her career and how she got to to where she is today, as well as a family history that includes founding a toy store in Montreal and big banners such as Le Chateau.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

No posts to display

Follow us


all-time Popular