As the British tailoring business turns 70, third-generation family owner and managing director Simon Cope is rebranding and expanding with a new store concept.
Established in 1948, heritage men’s tailoring business Skopes is celebrating this year’s 70th anniversary in style – unveiling a company-wide rebranding and the launch on 1 December of a new, digitally connected store concept in the Westfield London shopping centre in White City.
Today, Skopes’ operations cover retail in 11 own stores, its transactional website, mail order, 70 concessions, and wholesale. It has more than 346 active accounts in the UK, and 100 in Ireland. The brand says retail is its biggest category “by far”. Skopes mostly sells suiting in chest sizes up to 62 inches and trousers up to 48-inch waist. Wholesale prices range from £14 for trousers to £120 for a three-piece suit.
Managing director Simon Cope claims that the business is currently at “£25m [turnover] and is going to be £33m in 2019”. He expects it to hit £50m “in the next few years”. Profit last year was £1.35m.
Cope is the third generation to lead the family-owned business and believes in constantly driving it forward – 2018 has been a year of investment, aimed at securing its future growth.
We have to keep evolving to stay relevant in the consumers’ minds
“Our DNA is evolution. We have to keep evolving to stay relevant in the consumers’ minds [and] to meet changing wants, needs and desires,” he says. “We believe the time is right for the Skopes brand to take its next step. The market might be unstable and volatile, but that’s how we like it sometimes – it creates opportunities for Skopes.”
For the company’s “new look” – the biggest overhaul in its history – it worked with retail design and branding agency Dalziel & Pow.
Cope says the new branding “feels current and fresh”: “The colour palette is bold and bright, and really draws the eye. We [wanted] to create something that was a representation of ‘contemporary heritage’.”
He reveals that the Dalziel & Pow team suggested simply “tweaking” the Skopes brand image, thinking that a big change would be too much for customers. But Cope boldly pushed for a more substantial shift, one that brings a contemporary feel to the business.
The rebranding underpins a new retail strategy. As well as an overhaul of its transactional website to better meet omnichannel demands, Skopes is also kicking off a new store push.
It currently has 11 standalone retail sites, all of which are “very successful, showing double-digit growth year on year”.
However, they are all within off-price retail parks, says Cope: “We decided the market was right for Skopes to venture over the fence to full-priced concept stores.”
Suitable new store
The sleek new 2,300 sq ft space, which is set to open in Westfield London next month, is the manifestation of the business’s new look and aims to tap into retail’s trend for digitally connected, experiential shopping. Retail prices will range from £30 for trousers to £350 for a full suit.
“We wanted a store with a difference – we wanted it to be experiential, engaging and different from the rest of the high street. We did not want a boring ‘suits you, sir’ old fashion store,” says Cope. “The consumer deserves better.”
The store is home to a large “chill-out” area for shoppers and guests to “relax and enjoy while shopping”, complete with coffee machine and fully stocked drinks fridge. It has no till points, and staff carry out all transactions digitally. An in-store app, accessible via several iPad points, allows customers to browse Skopes’ full range of products online.
Men shop by looking for an overall look and style, not just a specific garment or piece within a collection
The changing rooms also feature a “lighting experience” that adds a layer of playful retail theatre, while aiming to boost sales. The system generates six different options that are intended to recreate different lighting situations, allowing shoppers to see how an outfit will look in different scenarios.
The layout of the store is zoned to reflect shifts in how today’s male customers prefer to shop, and to broaden Skopes’ typical 30- to 65-year-old customer demographic. Rather than being arranged by typical product categories, the new store will be organised by clearly defined, yet changing themes, such as dress-down Friday, party season or prom dressing.
“This is part of our response to the ever-changing retail environment. [Nowadays], men shop by looking for an overall look and style, not just a specific garment or piece within a collection,” explains Cope.
Survival in a volatile market
He admits that 2018 has been tough due to the extreme shifts in temperature and House of Fraser’s collapse. The business also suffered a major computer virus attack earlier this year, which affected all of its network, but that has now been resolved.
House of Fraser is one of its biggest partners via concessions. Cope reveals that, following meetings with the department store chain’s new owner, Mike Ashley, Skopes’ turnover in House of Fraser has increased by 100%, thanks to double the number of concession sites, including going into the department store’s Oxford Street flagship location.
However, the ever-confident Cope is continuing to push the family business forward and has already started planning his next store, which is set to open in the first quarter of 2019 at “another top shopping centre in the north of the country”.
“[To survive], we believe it is about living close to the coal face [of the industry] and having your finger on the pulse so you can react quickly to any changes,” says Cope. “The only bad decision is no decision. It’s like being an amoeba – you must change fit your environment.”