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Burlington CEO: Protecting brand integrity is a barrier to e-commerce growth

Protecting the integrity of the brands it carries has restricted the growth of Burlington Stores Inc.'s e-commerce business, the company's Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Kingsbury said March 13.

"There's a lot of barriers for us in terms of [asking] 'do we do e-commerce business?' because our goal in life is to protect brands and we're not going to put any brand on our e-commerce site unless we get approval," Kingsbury told an audience of executives at the American Apparel and Footwear Association's Executive Summit.

Online sales represent less than 1% of the off-price retailer's business, according to Kingsbury, who added that the company does not want to disrupt the vendor community by showcasing brands at discount prices online, which might affect their integrity.

Kingsbury said although the company's e-commerce business is growing "nicely," its not expected to reach the same scale as some department stores.

The chief executive said the company is focusing instead on growing its physical store count and enhancing the shopping experience for its customers.

"Our goal in life is to build the best brick-and-mortar experience that we possibly can because people are still going to shop," Kingsbury said. "If you give them a compelling and an interesting environment to shop in, they're going to shop in brick-and-mortar."

The executive's comments come after the company announced plans to open 50 new net stores in 2019 as part of its plan to expand its store footprint.

Despite the tremendous growth of e-commerce in the retail industry, Kingsbury said off-price retailers like Burlington and online retailers can co-exist.

"There's been two places where customers want to shop today — online and off-price. As long as we focus on giving the customer the best treasure hunt experience I think we can continue to do well," the executive said.

Kingsbury added that brick-and-mortar stores continue to have a significant role in the retail space, noting that big players such as Inc. have acknowledged the importance with their acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc. and the several brick-and-mortar stores they've opened.

"Even Amazon has recognized brick-and-mortar is pretty important," the CEO said.