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£20m refit at Matalan fends off value woe

Matalan has set aside £20 million to overhaul its entire store network in the next year in a bid to claw back market share and capitalise on the demise of some of its value rivals.

The chain, which launched its new test shopfit in Warrington in Cheshire last year, will treat its 146 ‘fashion’ stores to the new look, which includes shop-in-shop concepts for its new sub-brand proposition. Its remaining 50 high-density stores will also receive elements of the new design within 12 months.

Some 15 stores have already been refitted as part of a trial and have generated sales rises ahead of expectations.

Matalan’s investment is in sharp contrast to the likes of Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, which have scaled back plans for refits amid the downturn in consumer spending. It also marks an aggressive stance in the fightback against Primark and the supermarkets, which have been blamed for recent woes at Ethel Austin, Interna穯nale, MK One and Select.

Store development director Gill Moore said: “Visual merchandising is usually one of the areas to go in a downturn, but we’re investing more in store development. Customers are more savvy and demand a good environment,” she said.

Matalan will support its store refurbs with the launch of Visual Academy training scheme, which will develop around 1,000 managers’ visual merchandising skills.

Moore said: “We’re investing £20m in the store development programme and now have a visual merchandising manager per 15 stores. The new concept has allowed us to define who we are – a value family retailer – and better segment our offer.”

Separately, Matalan continues to introduce new product initiatives and will launch menswear sub-brand 24:7 by Jeff Banks for autumn 08. The label – the menswear equivalent of the Et Vous womenswear sub-brand – will have its own dedicated shopfits, offering fine-gauge knits priced about 25% above Matalan’s mainline.

Matalan now has a dedicated buying team of three for each sub-brand, including Et Vous, Rogers & Rogers, Soon and 24:7.

The value chain will also relaunch its lingerie area, which will be fronted by model and WAG Abbey Clancy.

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