Brookstone CEO: Product development, brand, channels are key focus ahead

May 11, 2017 | by Judy Mottl

Photo courtesy of Brookstone.

Brookstone knows the journey that today's failing retailers are on. And thanks to a renewed focus on product and brand, it may prove to be a stellar case study for those retailers on how to rebound the business.

The specialty retailer, which initially launched its unique products in the pages of Popular Mechanics Magazine way back in 1965, has come a long way from that first consumer sales channel. It went on to provide phone ordering and in 1973, it opened its first retail store.

Yet, despite all those channels, by 2014 Brookstone found itself filing for Chapter 11 and within a short few months was acquired by a Chinese investment firm.

The Merrimack, New Hampshire-based company sells a myriad of products, from drones to massage chairs. What sets it apart from most retailers is that it develops hundreds of products and was one of the first retailers to put products in consumers' hands, right in the store, to try out before purchase.

While the business puttered close to a near death, such intense product development, and a renewed focus on customer experience, has pulled it back into the competitive retail market.

"We're turning it around to the great tradition we had," said Steven Goldsmith, who took the reins as CEO and president in June 2016.

Goldsmith boasts over two decades as a retail leader, with stints including serving as president of the Canadian-based The Shopping Channel, and executive vice preisent of merchandising for Sears Canada and for Limited Brands Direct.

He said his company is also focused on expanding within malls and airports. As of this year it has 160 mall-based stores and 45 U.S. airport locations. It plans to grow its retail to 300 in the next three years.

Product development is clear and sharp

A few years ago, 70 percent of Brookstone's business was wholesale; now that line of business is 9 percent as Brookstone is developing "important” partnerships with fellow retailers such as Bed, Bath & Beyond as well as HSN.

"Other retailers can be a great ambassador for the brand. Ideas now come from everywhere," Goldsmith said during a session talk at the recent Shoptalk event in Las Vegas.

New product development is forefront with the retailers' 30 engineers and they're busy given the 300 products currently in the development pipeline, noted Goldsmith.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015, it debuted "Brookstone Launch" supporting inventors and startup incubators to drive new product ideas. The year also brought more than 100 new products to market for the retailer, as well as a revamped website.

The goal ahead, said Goldsmith, is creating a product portfolio boasting 70 percent of branded products.

"My job is to provide the best merchandise and allow the shopper to shop anyway he or she wants," he said. "It's all about enablement."


Topics: CRM, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Marketing, Merchandising, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Retail - Mall, Shopper Marketing, Specialty Stores



Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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