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The Omnichannel Makeover: A Success Story for a Department Store in Crisis

Loretta Soffe

By Loretta Soffe



Assemble transforms struggling European department store into thriving omnichannel business with a 5% revenue growth & 12% EBITDA increase. Results include an 18% e-commerce penetration, a stronger brand & higher customer retention.

A European department store with ten underperforming physical locations and a nascent e-commerce business was losing market share and at risk of becoming irrelevant to the changing consumer. The online business was underfunded, underperforming, and completely disconnected from the core business. Year-over-year declines in revenue and profit were eroding their stock price and shareholder value while expenses were escalating. It was clear they didn’t have a clear vision of their target customer and a strategy to win her share of wallet.

The management team brought in Assemble as a strategic thought partner to catalyze a complete omnichannel transformation across the brand, merchandising assortment and inventory, store and digital experience, organizational structure, and data infrastructure. 

Listen and Learn

We started by getting to know the leaders and their teams. We conducted interviews with merchants, financial planners, store managers, and sales associates. Additionally, we did a thorough business review and analysis of the P&L, KPIs, and year-over-year results. We examined the company’s processes, tools, and technology systems for sales and inventory planning, product assortment and allocation, store operations, and product development. We toured the local stores and undertook a competitive review of the local markets. 

By the end of the reconnaissance mission, it was clear the executives were overwhelmed by the list of problems and needed outside counsel to prioritize and develop a roadmap for long-term survival.  


We began with our signature 5-step workshop™ to establish brand clarity, identify the target customer, understand the competitive landscape, align on the core value proposition, and formulate a 30/60/90-day roadmap. 

Upon completion of our workshop, it was evident that brand equity was diluted, the business was operating in silos, category planning was non-existent, forecasting was poor, and inventory management was outdated.

As a result, the sales channels were disconnected, the overall product assortment was uninspiring, the stores were disorganized, markdowns were high and gross margin was declining, opex was unacceptable, and shareholders were losing value as the company was losing market share.

Our first step was to clarify the company’s mission and vision and align with a target customer. With that clarity, we worked with management to apply a filter for decision-making relative to product assortment and brand matrix, pricing and promotional strategies, space and site allocation, marketing strategies and messaging, and customer service.  

We recommended where to invest by product segment, category, and brand to improve pricing and promotional activity. One input for this was a view of the competitive landscape we created, which informed decisions about where the company was best positioned to compete and lead. 

Of course, to support the new strategies, we implemented processes and structures, including organizational design with roles, responsibilities, and incentives and inventory allocation by location, customer type, and brand. We put parameters in place for merchandising exclusivity and markdown optimization.

Finally, we provided a framework and management dashboard to measure performance and progress against our shared goals of restoring marketing share growth and growing share of wallet that offered heightened visibility to newly-defined KPIs.


5% growth in revenue and 12% growth in EBITDA, with market share gains in specific and targeted categories and an increased share of wallet with h coveted young customers. Strengthened customer loyalty was reflected by a 6% increase in retention rates. The desired shift to digital was quickly underway, with e-commerce penetration at 18% and growing. Additionally, sustainable results included a more recognizable brand and the pride and retention of talent.