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Bank and John Lewis seek out young fashion brands

John Lewis and Bank are courting young fashion brands as they look to tap into new parts of the market.

Drapers understands that John Lewis has approached selected brands about entering the department store chain as it considers the creation of a dedicated young fashion section.

It is thought John Lewis is looking to trial denim and streetwear brands in a handful of stores in an attempt to attract a younger customer than its current demographic.

Although plans are understood to be at a very early stage, they have already won backing from the sector.

One sales agent for a denim brand currently stocked by the retailer said he would be interested in moving into the new section. “We would love to be involved in a dedicated streetwear area,” he said. “It’s great that John Lewis is picking up on the importance of younger shoppers.”

At the same time, Drapers has learned that JD Sports Fashion-owned chain Bank is hoping to attract 40 menswear and streetwear brands, which will be introduced online and in store over the next 12 to 18 months, to complement its own label, young fashion over.

A source close to the situation told Drapers that Bank was about to start a “rejuvenation campaign” headed up by former Reiss trading director Gwynn Milligan.

One agent said: “It wants a lot more branded product as it took its own label too far. Adding the extra brands is part of its overall buying strategy to get it back on track.”

A second agent said he had been approached about a number of menswear brands but decided the chain was “not the right ‑ t” for his labels.

“Bank is trying to upscale and go more branded as it started to do too much on the own brand side of things,” he said. “It didn’t work for us though – we’re sitting in differentplaces in the market.”

However, this week the 93-store chain’s plans took a step back as it emerged that its head of womenswear Debbi Ball is leaving after less than a year.

Ball joined in March to oversee design and buying across the whole of womenswear. She is thought to be joining Boohoo.com, although the young fashion etailer declined to comment.

She was expected to play a pivotal role in Bank’s turnaround, after the business reported a drop in like-for-like sales of 3.7% in the 26 weeks to August 3, dragging JD’s fashion arm down 2.2%.

In September, JD chief executive Barry Bown told Drapers that Bank needed a “fresh perspective”.

He added: “We will bring in some slightly more well-known brands but also focus on new brands. The footwear over also needs to be improved.”

At the time he said he hoped to see the “first green shoots” of recovery by spring 14.

Both John Lewis and Bank declined to comment.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Surely is is just learning from M&S failing... To succession plan for the next generation.

    M&S didn't, leaving an aging client base... who are less fussed on fashion anyway and hence the retailer's decline, along with the decisions to treat their supply chain badly and lose their quality focus.

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  • The problem brands will have with John Lewis is that as soon as they go into the store, regardless of it being in a new streetwear department or not, they will loose the appeal to the current end user. The knock on effect that the current stockists will have is 2 fold, the brand loosing its appeal and also having to share the brand. John Lewis is a fantastic business who manage to do most things extremely well but they are not seen as a destination store for the young/fashion forward/streetwear shopper who by definition are looking for something different and don’t want to be seen shopping for their fashion fix along with their parents. Short term for brands the order book would be very nice indeed with John Lewis on board but I think we could see a very rapid demise in some well respected brands if they choose this route.

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