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East to stock third-party brands as it pushes boho identity

East is to begin hosting third-party clothing brands next year and may reposition itself as a lifestyle retailer, Drapers has learned.

The womenswear chain is eyeing locations for a London flagship to house a mix of its own range and brands stocked by its owner Fabindia, such as Tabla and Bandhej.

Chief executive Suzi Spink said the inclusion of the Indian brands, which are likely to take up around 20-30% of the store, would reinforce East’s bohemian identity. “It will broaden the appeal of the brand, create a buzz around East and promote Eastern designers around the world,” she explained.

The company is looking for a 2,500-3,000 sq ft unit for the move, with a view to opening next spring. The third-party brands will also be available online.

East already has a flagship store in Covent Garden, but Spink said the new store would be branded and marketed in a way that distinguishes it as multi-brand concept.

The working title for the concept is East Emporium, but this is under review after Jigsaw opened its Duke Street Emporium earlier this year.

If the model is successful, East will open a second emporium store next year and look at rolling it out to some of its existing stores in cities such as Cambridge and Oxford.

“If there’s a lot of demand, we might do it faster,” she added.

East is also considering a move into homeware, although this is at an early stage.

“We want to make it a lifestyle brand, with a broader, ageless appeal,” she said.

The move is part of East’s wider strategy to join up its offering with its parent company, Indian retailer Fabindia, which is opening a store stocking East and the other brands in Singapore’s largest mall, VivoCity, in September.

Fabindia is now in talks about opening more multibrand stores that would enable East to test new locations around the world.

“It’s quicker and more efficient to go as a group,” Spink said.

East has been plotting its international expansion since Fabindia upped its stake in the chain from 25% to 62.5% in 2011.

So far most of its business outside of the UK has been in Ireland, but the company has been selling some product – about 24 lines – through Fabindia for the past four to five months, with “promising results”.

East’s total turnover for the year to fell 2% to £39.7m, though like-for-likes rose 0.2%. Sales in the UK were £38.8m, down from £44.3m the year before. EBITDA fell 69% from £281,000 to £86,000.

It made an operating loss of £712,300 during the period, down from a £1.5m loss the year before.

Spink said the chain had halved its losses by closing three of its loss-making stores – in Dundrum, Manchester and Nottingham – and two concessions during the year. Its Bluewater store was closed in the current financial year.

The chain now has 61 standalone stores and 43 concessions.

 

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