New Owner Wants To Rescue Struggling Talbots

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The private equity firm Sycamore Partners plans to turn around the 65-year-old retailer Talbots. Sycamore is buying the company for around 10 percent of the stock value five years ago.


Talbots, the women's clothing seller, has been struggling lately. And now, it is getting a new owner. The private equity firm Sycamore Partners hopes to turn around the 65-year-old retailer.

From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: Talbots' core customers have been people like Ava Beaulieu, who's a strategic planner at a Boston health-care company.

AVA BEAULIEU: In the past, I would buy suits, dresses, shoes and accessories for work.

NICKISCH: She stopped buying at Talbots three years ago. With the recession, Beaulieu decided she didn't need to restock her wardrobe as often.

Patty Edwards, a retail industry analyst at Trutina Financial, says there were a lot of women like Beaulieu and, she says, office fashions have been changing.

PATTY EDWARDS: The high-tech world does not dress. In fact, you're considered overdressed if you show up with a jacket on.

NICKISCH: Talbots first tried to respond by reaching out to younger customers. It didn't work.

KATE CORDA: I don't even think I've really been in there.


NICKISCH: Twenty-five-year-old Kate Corda says none of her colleagues want to shop where their moms do. Worse, loyal customers were turned off by the low-slung, frilly tops next to the gray suits. Analyst Patty Edwards says Talbots has to update its fashion lines, but keep them true to the brand.

EDWARDS: So that it is a cool place for 30- and 40-year-olds to go in and find suiting that is classic, but not dowdy.

NICKISCH: Talbots' new owner is getting a relatively cheap shot at a turnaround. Sycamore is buying the company for around 10 percent of the stock value five years ago.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.

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