Major brand shake-up at House of Fraser as it focuses on core shopper
There are big changes ahead for House of Fraser as the mainly-UK department stores chain cuts some brands, boosts others, adjusts the category mix to better reflect modern shopping habits and to focus firmly on its target consumer.
So where to start? The chain is axing 30 to 40 third-party brands from this autumn, mainly those targeting younger and more mature fashion shoppers, in order to devote more space to surefire winners including AllSaints, Jigsaw, North Face and Barbour. The company currently carries over 650 third-party brands and it is unclear which will be axed as talks are still ongoing.
And four of its house brands are on the cuts list too with Episode, Therapy, Gray & Willow and Dickins & Jones all for the chop The others, Linea, Biba, Maison de Nimes and Label Lab, will get extra resources with accessories launched for each brand and the product offer being revamped.
That will mean changes such as an update for 20-year-old house brand Linea to specialise in clean-lined smart daywear, new washes for denim brand Maison de Nimes, and a quality boost for Biba. HoF will also launch a new own label this year to leave it with five house brands.
And it will take a more proactive approach to testing new labels and products, using five of its stores as test sites before wider rollouts.
The company also plans to rein-in markdowns as it works to boost full-price sales.
The move to rationalise its brand portfolio echoes that of major rival Debenhams. And while fashion is HoF’s biggest category, again, like Debenhams, the company will also focus more resources on beauty and gifts. These categories are growing faster in the UK than the intensely competitive fashion sector.
The fashion changes are being driven by one of its newer recruits, Maria Hollins who had previously been at Asos. And a change in its definition of its target customer is being led by another relative newcomer, chief customer officer David Walmsley, who was formerly at M&S.
He has identified the core customer as a woman called Jo who has an income more than twice the national average and a degree-level education. She has a “purpose-driven lifestyle built around [her two older] children and her partner, and her lifestyle is complex.”
To get more of her discretionary cash, the retailer will also offer innovations such as yoga studios, well-being centres and champagne bars, plus more sales-driver events and better in-store customer service.
And the changes will be seen online too with the company to launch a new UK website that is mobile-friendly.
SECOND CHINESE STORE
The retailer also plans to ramp up its international growth with a second Chinese store following its debut in China last year.
Executive chairman Frank Slevin said the new programme would reverse the under-investment the chain had seen under ITS previous ownership and management, and would put House of Fraser in a prominent position as the retail environment is transformed.
But the company also defended owner Sanpower against claims that £75 million of promised investment has not happened. Finance chief Colin Elliot said that £90 million has been reinvested since 2014 and that £45 million will be spent this year.
And he said the company’s spending plans are now more sensible with previous management having asked for £55 million to build the new website but the company having achieved the task for less than half that sum.
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