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Deputy Diary: Binnie’s early exit from Jaeger means full price never had a chance

How long should it take to turn around an ailing business? One year? Two years? Five?

Nine months, it would seem, at least in the case of Jaeger executive chairman Stewart Binnie and private equity owner Better Capital.

This week, Binnie left the premium retailer after just nine months at the helm to “return to his non-executive activities on behalf of private equity-backed businesses and other companies”, said a statement from Better Capital, which has no immediate plans to replace Binnie.

Such is the pressure from private equity firms on their acquisitions to deliver quickly, that Binnie’s long-term vision for Jaeger - one that would see the premium retailer return to a full-price strategy - never had the time to materialise in such a short period. At the Drapers Fashion Summit in November, Binnie pledged to sell at full price, regardless of what competitors were doing in the wider market. He urged other retailers to follow the example of the luxury industry and said at the time: “With a deep gulp we decided to trade womenswear at full price. And it’s been a huge success.”

Well, I think “huge” was a bit of an overstatement. Sources have told us that Jaeger struggled to attract shoppers in the face of its discounting competitors. There was nothing wrong with Binnie’s strategy in principle - in fact, it should be applauded - but he wasn’t in full control of it. Its success is dependent on the entire - or certainly the majority - of Jaeger’s peers following suit.

Even Binnie’s lauded luxury sector isn’t reading from his script; earlier this month My-Wardrobe.com angered indies by introducing a 20% discount on spring product and a healthy debate followed on Drapersonline.com as to whether the etailer was right to do so.

Plus, Jaeger’s product transformation isn’t complete yet for shoppers to justify spending full price there when they could shop at a discount elsewhere. Much like Binnie’s full-price strategy, the appointment in December of former Burberry designer Collette Brown as head of womenswear design will take time to translate into the collections.

Over the past few years, it’s been difficult to pin down what Jaeger stands for, what its DNA is. It has tried to chase the younger customer with its Boutique collection, arguably at the expense of its mainline, which became overpriced and a bit fusty. So, Brown needs to first address this, and the business as a whole then needs to address the perception that consumers have of Jaeger as a result of the past few years.

It won’t be easy and could take longer than another nine months.

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