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The VIth Sense - Harold's Clothing Hanging on by a Thread

Posted by Tim Berney

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90d080a037e99aac653acce791a36523_copy.jpgHarold's Clothing Stores, an Oklahoma institution, is in a real mess and can't seem to find their way out. In the past quarter, same quarter sales were down again, and even online sales were down from the previous quarter.

 This is alarming, given the fact online sales are growing in the USA at double-digit rates each quarter. But Harold's dilemma began long before the Internet became a viable channel.

Harold's expansion into new markets in the 1980s and 1990s was coupled with their decision to sell only private label goods. When consumers visited their stores, they had no point of reference from which to compare the style, quality or fashion of the goods being offered. In it's heyday, Harold's stocked several well-respected brands such as Barry Bricken, Polo, Cole Hahn and Alden. This gave them credibility as a store and gave their private label offerings instant equity as well. After all, if you've never heard of Cricket or Chucker, you assume they are of similar quality and style as the well-known brands right next to them.

The expansion stores only stocked the private label brands, and neither those brands, nor the Harold's brand had an equity of credibility with consumers in North Carolina, Tennessee, or Mississippi. And Harold's didn't have the dollars or inclination to build those private label brands into national brands. So, they flopped. And continue to do so today, hanging on by a thread. Even in Oklahoma, where the brand was once revered, a new generation of consumers has to be sold on the Harold's brand. And with no profits to fund effective communications, Harold's is caught in a trap that will be all but impossible to escape from.

Our advice: Connect the Harold's brand to and established line that the consumer respects. Or, develop a well-financed marketing plan that gives credibility to the private labels, turning them in to regional brands. Business as usual will finish Harold's off.

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