The news, broken by Drapers on Friday, that Sarah Curran was joining Shop Direct to spearhead its move into the luxury sector at first seems like a strange one.
Curran, who this year was awarded an MBE as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, has a background of pedigree, having founded luxury etailer My-Wardrobe in 2006. Well regarded throughout the industry, her relationships with decision makers at some of the best brands around today is her currency and no doubt the main reason for her appointment as a director of the etail group.
And while Shop Direct undoubtedly has heritage thanks to its 80 years of existence, it clearly operates in a very different segment of the industry. Without going through a very expensive rebranding process, one must ask whether it is biting off more than it can chew in looking to compete at the top end.
But Shop Direct’s credit division could make all the difference. Instead of targeting the same customer that would shop at My-Wardrobe or Net-A-Porter, it will be appeal to those in the tier below, who aspire to wear luxury and premium clothing but just don’t have the readies.
You can quibble with the morality of lending money to people to buy clothes – a particularly timely concern given that we are only just emerging from the fallout of a recession created by a culture of borrow now, pay later – but as a business model it seems sound.
Shop Direct’s image as a value etailer will need to be addressed – unless they have a bit of SEO wizardry to help them on their way – so, although the business claimed no decision had been taken over what route to market it would take, a distinct home for its high end labels – such as the one mooted at an early stage, Very Exclusive - is a must.