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Editor's Comment: 2018 could be a game-changer for fashion

Keely Stocker

The rumour mill has been abuzz this week with speculation that Arcadia Group is up for sale following reports in The Sunday Times. While Sir Philip Green has fiercely denied these claims, it has firmly put the business – as well as the wider changes affecting it – firmly back in the spotlight.

Arcadia, like many other high street retailers, has struggled in recent times, failing to keep up with new entrants to the market. Legacy systems and structures have prevented traditional retailers from being as agile as necessary at a time when consumer expectations are higher than ever.

Topshop, the jewel in Arcadia’s crown, was seen for many years as a trailblazer, owning the top spot in young fashion shoppers’ minds. When it launched its first store in New York back in 2009, shoppers began queuing at 6am.

Its catwalk shows at London Fashion Week have repeatedly generated large amounts of coverage, not just for the celebrity attendance but, more importantly, for the product showcased. As recently as the spring 18 edition, Drapers head of content – fashion and features Graeme Moran described the collection as “full of attitude, glamour and youthful vibrancy”.

Topshop was one of the early adopters of creating a strong in-store experience

Topshop was also one of the early adopters of creating a strong in-store experience. In its Oxford Street flagship, DJs play throughout the day and customers visit nail bars or take advantage of the personal shopping service. With this store, it has achieved what every fashion retailer wants to: a place that feels exciting, and where shoppers want to spend time as well as money.

However, as fast fashion players such as Asos and Boohoo began to turn the head of the young fashion shopper, the high street players failed to keep up.

What Topshop, Arcadia and a plethora of other high street retailers are missing is a clear brand proposition and consistency across the business’s digital and store portfolio. Online offers often feel underinvested in, despite this being an area that multichannel retailers cannot fail to ignore – particularly those with a younger customer demographic.

Ten years ago, it would unimaginable that a stalwart like Arcadia could be up for sale but, if that were to be the case, it would represent another significant change in the ownership of the UK high street. As more and more businesses are bought by big international players the landscape is shifting – and 2018 could be a potentially game-changing year for the fashion industry.

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