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Davies backs Ghost as GIVe adds brands

Retail entrepreneur George Davies is to turn his high street womenswear chain GIVe into a multi-brand retailer, marking a major strategic shift for the business.

GIVe will host concessions for premium womenswear brand Ghost within all eight of its standalone stores from September in what is understood to be Davies’ first step in a multi-brand offer.

The introduction of third-party brands is a strategic volte-face for GIVe less than 12 months after Davies debuted the premium own-label womenswear concept aimed at the 30-plus market.

Although the launch of GIVe was much anticipated by the trade it has struggled to make an impact with its high street stores. Earlier this year Davies himself admitted sales at its standalone stores had been “mixed” and he was reported to be keen to exit underperforming sites in London’s Regent Street and Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, which had failed to attract the target 30-plus shopper.

However, GIVe’s concessions in independent department stores are believed to be trading more successfully and there are no plans to bring third-party brands into any of the 16 concessions.

Ghost owner Touker Suleyman told Drapers that Davies had long harboured plans to bring in other labels. He said: “It’s always been George’s intention to put other brands into GIVe stores. Ghost will be the only brand to go in for autumn but if it’s successful I’m sure George will look to add more brands next year.”

The floor space taken up by Ghost will vary from store to store. Within certain shops it will also be given an entire window to display Ghost product.

Suleyman said the GIVe/Ghost partnership arose out of a long-standing friendship and business relationship between himself and Davies. Suleyman is thought to have supplied Davies with product for several of his previous ventures including Per Una, the Marks & Spencer sub-brand he founded in 2001. Suleyman added that the arrangement would benefit Ghost by giving it a stronger high street presence to help it build brand awareness.

Ghost has six of its own standalone stores in locations such as Kingston upon Thames, Cambridge and King’s Road, London, but it pulled out of its 16 House of Fraser concessions two months ago. “House of Fraser was no longer right for our brand,” said Suleyman.

“GIVe will give us a lot more exposure in prime sites. I’m also talking to other department stores because I want to take Ghost forward via the concession route and go back in heavily for spring 11, but focus on areas with heavy footfall.”

Suleyman, who also owns shirt retailer Hawes & Curtis, has gradually reduced the price of Ghost and repositioned the former luxury chain to a premium level after he rescued it from administration in 2008. For spring 10 most dresses retailed for about £95, making it more in line with GIVe’s current price architecture.

Similarly, Davies cut the prices of GIVe product for spring 10, when a floral dress retailed for £79, after noting that younger shoppers who shopped at the likes of Reiss and Karen Millen were buying the collection. At its autumn 09 launch, price points stretched as high as £379 for a pair of stretch leather trousers, largely because Davies had opted to manufacture in markets such as Italy to ensure quality was second to none.

Davies, who is best known for launching Next in the 1980s and creating the George at Asda brand and the Per Una sub-brand, was unavailable for comment.

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