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Matalan takes on the high street – will it win?

Our lead story this week is a piece that reveals Matalan’s ambitions to become a high street name, taking on the likes of Primark and New Look.

Part of this strategy has already begun under womenswear buying director Mitchell Hughes, who has restructured the team to become more focused on design, creating trend-led items with more than a passing nod to the season’s looks.

Drapers has since learned that the value retailer is now plotting a physical move onto the high street. Following its debut last year in Liverpool, the business has signed a lease in Cardiff city centre and is understood to be looking at more locations in Manchester, Leeds and London’s Oxford Street.

One source told me Matalan had allocated a pot of money to find sites on high streets around the country, and while the business itself played it down we have heard rumours of this ambition for nearly a year.

This suggests that it is moving slowly – perhaps because it’s not used to the challenges associated with taking large units in prime spots – but it is a sensible tactic to play as only fools would rush in to bricks and mortar leases at a time when so many retailers are downsizing and focusing online.

As we all know high streets have struggled – in some instances, more than out-of-town locations – with daytime footfall dropping, particularly as a result of weather, but also as people increasingly spend their money online or on evening leisure activities.

But as we have seen with the likes of Primark, in-demand retailers can drive footfall to areas previously unloved, and benefit other businesses around them. If thinks it can replicate the seemingly unstoppable fast fashion chain simply by moving next door, it will have to think again. But there is no reason why, with continued focus on product, more drops per season and a higher profile, Matalan can’t succeed on the high street.

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