Reitmans’ New CEO Andrea Limbardi Eyes Growth and Modernization Amid Economic Challenges [Interview]

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As a Montrealer, Andrea Limbardi has always had a special tie to the iconic retail brand Reitmans.

Andrea Limbardi

Limbardi, who took over the reins of Reitmans as President and Chief Executive Officer on September 5 after 21 years with Indigo most recently as President, said the story of Reitmans always interested her.

“Founded in 1926 with a female co-founder which at that time was really rare and I always followed the story. Even back in 2003 my engagement photos, the dress I’m wearing is from Reitmans. It’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember,” she said. 

“When I got the phone call, I met with them and immediately felt the connection with the board members I met with, with Stephen Reitman who is the Executive Chairman of the Board. And continued the conversations with really no expectations. And the more I learned, the more intrigued I was and I was really fascinated by the culture that’s been built – a 100-year company that’s a Canadian success story. It’s really fascinating to see now all the inner workings of how that’s come to be.”

RW&CO at CF Rideau Centre (Image: Reitmans)

The company is a leading women’s specialty apparel retailer with retail outlets throughout Canada. As of October 28, 2023, the company operated 401 stores consisting of 231 Reitmans, 90 Penningtons and 80 RW&CO. 

“We’re one of Canada’s largest specialty retailers. We have over 400 stores across Canada over the three brands. As I’ve now seen our customer metrics, our net promoter score and customer satisfaction results, they’re off the charts,” explained Limbardi. “We have a dedicated, engaged, passionate customer who is very opinionated in all the best ways.

“The company itself is really well run operationally from all different aspects and for me I think it’s Canada’s best-kept secret. The attention to quality and fit. The attention to the customer is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. And the more that we can get that story out of the time and energy spent by the teams in Montreal. We have big teams in Montreal designing our every garment that we sell and that’s rare in Canada. There’s not many other retailers that have everything happening pretty much in Canada directly. We have so many brands from elsewhere. So to see it maintained for this long is incredible. But the passion behind the quality is exceptional.

“I see a huge opportunity for us to grow our brands. I see a huge opportunity for us to leverage that customer love even more and share a little bit more about our story and what we do, the attention we spend on making it right for our customer.”

RW&CO at CF Rideau Centre (Image: Reitmans)
Penn at Faubourg Boisbriand

In 2023, the company opened five net new stores:

  • RW&Co. at CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa (opened Dec/23)
  • Reitmans at CF Polo Park in Winnipeg (opened May/23)
  • Reitmans at CF Market Mall in Calgary (opened July/23)
  • Penn at SmartCentres Oakville in Oakville (opened March/23)
  • Penn at Faubourg Boisbriand in Boisbriand, Quebec (opened Mar/23)

In 2024, it has four net new stores confirmed, and two major relocations. And more to come. 

  • Reitmans Southcentre Mall in Calgary (opening Winter ‘24)
  • Reitmans at Kingsway Garden Mall in Edmonton (Opening Winter ‘24)
  • Reitmans Place Montreal Trust in Montreal (Relocation from Montreal Centre Eaton – opening Winter ‘24)
  • RW&Co. at Sherway Gardens (Relocation to a larger store  – Winter ‘24 opening)
  • RW&Co. at Toronto Premium Outlets in Halton Hills (Net new – 2024)
  • RW&Co. at Premium Outlets Montreal in Mirabel (Net new – 2024)

“I do see growth. We have opportunities to open more stores in all three brands,” said Limbardi. “We’ll be kicking off our strategy process early in the new calendar year.”

Limbardi, who has been in the retail industry for 30 years, said the industry is a bit of a roller coaster always with some highs and some lows.

“You stay on that roller coaster as a lifelong retailer. It’s part of the fun of it. Understanding how you always answer the customer’s ever-evolving needs. That’s what I love the most,” she said.

“I think right now the economic situation in the world, forget just retail, is affecting Canadians massively. We know that. We see it in mortgages, property taxes and grocery all climbing. That’s hitting our customers. We hear it from them very clearly that it’s been a hard go for a while. I think we expect there’s going to be some challenges in the economy for probably the next year. 

“As a retailer, it’s always about getting what you clearly can offer to the customer out and clear and not lose that. I think it’s easy to go into looking into how do we cost cut our way into greatness but that never works. From our point of view, I think where we have a unique position is that the level of quality and fit and style we have for our really reasonable price point is where we can win. So when you want to treat yourself to something but you want it to be long-lasting, you want it to be versatile, so you can wear it to the office or you can wear it to a party, but you also want it to be affordable, we hit all of those check marks and I think that’s where we’ll weather what is a real storm for a bit. And after we get through the economic pressures, retail is here to stay. That in-store experience is so critical. It’s what we all love about retail – going in and touching the product and talking to the sales associate and understanding more. We’re going to be really investing in what our in-store environment looks and feels like in the future. We’ve started discussions on that already.”

Reitmans in CF Market Mall (Image: Mario Toneguzzi)

Recently, Reitmans reported its financial results for the third quarter, for the 13 weeks ended October 28, 2023, of fiscal 2024. 

In the third quarter, net revenues were $193.4 million compared to $206.2 million for the third quarter of 2023. Net earnings were $5.3 million compared to $14.6 million for the third quarter of 2023.

Year to date fiscal 2024, net revenues were $573.7 million compared to $590.4 million for the year to date fiscal 2023 while net earnings were $14.8 million compared to $50.2 million for the year to date fiscal 2023

“Our Fall styles resonated well with our customers in all three brands, despite the fact that the economic headwinds and warmer than usual weather impacted our traffic. We also are pleased with strong results in two key strategic categories of men’s fashion at RW&CO. and HYBA activewear at Reitmans,” said Limbardi as the company reported its financial results.

“Our strong balance sheet and focus on our long-term strategic roadmap to deliver modernization in digital technology and in our distribution centre, continue to progress positively. In the third quarter, we launched a new robotics system in our distribution centre, significantly speeding up processing times. As well, we are on schedule to rollout a nation-wide point-of-sale system in our 400+ stores across Canada in 2024. RCL is well positioned, with our strong customer loyalty and financial standing, to deliver long-term value to our shareholders.”

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.

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