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Analysts response: Nicole Farhi collapses into administration

As Nicole Farhi appointed Zolfo Cooper as administrator this week, Drapers takes a look at what the analysts said about the failing fashion label.

It is thought Nicole Farhi’s owners had been trying to sell the business in recent weeks after a turbulent few years in which there have been a series of management and ownership changes.

Ross Bailey, founder of pop-up marketplace Appear Here, said there was a “grim sense of inevitability in the demise of Nicole Farhi”. He added: “Modern consumers want more from the shopping experience that they weren’t getting from the luxury label and in the current climate it’s innovate, inspire or be damned.

“Nicole Farhi learnt too late that shoppers had forgotten about the brand. When was the last time someone said ‘you’ve got to see the new Nicole Farhi store’? Never. That’s the problem. Each touch point with the brand was uninspiring in comparison with competitors.”

Luke Leitch, deputy fashion editor at the Telegraph, agreed that failing to rise to the challenge set by other retailers was instrumental in the brands demise stating: “there are now other labels that do what Farhi once did, but better. If you want metropolitan French designer daywear, there is Vanessa Bruno - and more accessible versions by Sandro or Maje. And if you want purist’s clothes, simply-cut classics that make you look like a clever clogs, then there is Margaret Howell or Paul Smith.”

He added: “Nicole Farhi is not yet quite kaput. But should it fail to recover in the intensive care unit of administration a post-mortem will reveal three combined causes of death; complacency, mismanagement, and the rise of younger, hungrier competitors.”

Independent analyst Nick Bubb said: “It is never good to see retail brands die, but the fashion business Nicole Farhi was chronically loss-making, before its former owner French Connection managed to get rid of it three years ago, and it is not that surprising to hear that it has gone bankrupt. We went to see the Nicole Farhi store in Covent Garden yesterday afternoon and we were staggered to see that they were charging £85 for a men’s polo shirt.”

Independent e-commerce consultant Shannon Edwards said she was “not that surprised” to hear the brand was going into administration, stating that “despite being a fantastic label”, it’s “lack of innovation” was its downfall.  She added: “You just have to look at the brand’s social media activity to see that, culturally, e-commerce was not part of the brand’s flow. You have to keep up with competitors. It’s a case of innovate or die.”

Cassie Ingle, senior associate at law firm Dundas & Wilson, added: “For fashion retailers, the ability to predict and produce on-trend clothes at a price customers are will to pay is vital. The brand may be strong but if sales are weak, and change is too slow, then they will struggle to survive. For some retailers, adaptation and diversification may be too great a leap: too many properties, too much debt, not enough cash to turn things around.  For many, it may already be too late. This will not be the end of the high street casualties.”

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