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Can a value retailer ever step out of its remit and into high fashion?

This is a question we’ve put out to readers for our next issue, prompted by a wave of comments on a story about Tesco discontinuing its F&F Couture range. 

According to the Daily Mail, large stocks of Tesco’s F&F Couture range were left over and the retailer was forced to reduce the prices of the range following a dive in sales. It had significantly reduced items including a maxi dress, priced down from £120 to £20.

While a spokeswoman from Tesco has pointed out to Drapers that F&F Couture launched as a range within the wider F&F collection and was only ever going to be limited, it still throws up some interesting questions.   

The story has attracted comments asking what Tesco expected and saying that it should stick to what it knows best.  One comment read: “To buy a couture dress from Tesco is like going to Bury market and asking for original Prada dress.”

The first issue here is semantics. Tesco is a supermarket, with a value-led clothing offering. To call its premium range “couture” is an amusing misnomer.

While there is a definite trend for retailers to introduce higher priced ranges with improved quality – think M&S and Designers at Debenhams – for Tesco to have dresses at £120 was out of kilter with its value offer.  The Tesco customer with £120 to spare would probably prefer to splash their cash at Reiss or Whistles.

The second issue is context. Tesco’s value reputation and generalist appeal is too prominent to get away from. Buying fast, value fashion among tins of beans and TVs is more than acceptable but it’s not where even a value-fashionista wants to buy her ‘couture’.

Gina Lovett, News Editor, Drapers

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