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Oliver Bonas ups its fashion credentials with own label

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Contemporary lifestyle retailer Oliver Bonas is to launch its first own-brand range to improve margins and create a clearer fashion identity.

Poem by Oliver Bonas will launch across the retailer’s 28 stores, which are mostly within the M25, in May with about 30 pieces. The range will sit alongside other contemporary womenswear brands the retailer stocks, including Vero Moda and Vila.

Managing director Oliver Tress said: “We want to produce something that is special and unique to us and has detailing. We can’t compete with retailers like H&M so we have to make sure we have quality.”

Prices for the range were not confirmed as Drapers went to press, as fabrics were yet to be decided. However, Tress said tops would start at about £30 and dresses would vary from about £50 for a cotton summer dress to £120 for a silk maxi dress. Tress said he would not rule out wholesaling the collection: “We certainly would be interested in that, but we want to get a season or two under our belts first.”

Linda Molnes, who previously worked at menswear chain Austin Reed as a buyer, joined Oliver Bonas as creative buyer in November to lead the own-label project.

Fashion represents about a third of the Oliver Bonas business, which had a turnover of £10.3m and an operating profit of £630,000 in the year to December 31, 2009, according to figures filed at Companies House.

Tress said turnover generated by its fashion offer may rise to 40% of the whole business from its current 30%. He added: “It’s a case of building our own-brand identity and making it a credible brand. One of the key things is being able to keep some of that margin - we want to increase overall sales and increase margin at the same time.”

The retailer has also relaunched its website at www.oliverbonas.com. The finishing touches to both the technical and content side will be finalised by March.

Tress said the new site was easier to navigate, with more flexibility and control on how products are displayed. He added: “We’ve put a lot more character into it - it’s a closer representation to how it feels going into the stores - there was a disconnection between the two.”

At present, the website represents 5% to 6% of turnover. Tress said this had increased by about 40% this year, and he wanted it to make up about 20% of turnover in four years’ time.

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