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Jane Norman must be given breathing space to grow

Jane Norman’s senior fashion team has been filled by staff from Peacocks and the head offices are to be merged - but the business will not thrive under these conditions writes Ruth Faulkner.

When young fashion retailer Jane Norman was rescued from administration by Edinburgh Woollen Mill last year, my first reaction was one of incredulity.

It seemed strange that a retailer historically known for the sale of fleeces and jumpers to women of a certain age (I had only ever been in a branch of EWM with my grandmother) should have any interest in running a young fashion business known for its figure-hugging lycra dresses.

But having learned more about EWM and the man behind it, the purchase is less surprising. Philip Day is independently wealthy and, according to some in the industry, is using this resource to build a fashion empire in the vein of Sir Philip Green and Arcadia.

Acquiring Jane Norman was one of the first pieces of the puzzle, and a few months later, when value fashion chain Peacocks fell into administration, he picked up another.

Yet rumours suggest the chief executive is now far more focused on this latest acquisition than his original purchase – one former supplier claims Day no longer attends meetings at Jane Norman, instead focusing his energy on Peacocks.

And it appears that one is in danger of being subsumed by the other – we report today that several top jobs at Jane Norman are being filled by their counterparts from Peacocks following a series of departures from the fashion team.

This on the back of the news about the head offices being merged. The two facts combined suggest that Jane Norman’s future as an independent brand may be in doubt.

Day insists the two remain very “distinct” businesses but despite his grand plans for expansion and improvement, Jane Norman must be given the right conditions if it is to survive, or even grow.

Jane Norman has almost as little to do with Peacocks in its styling as it does with EWM and that must be reflected in its buying and merchandising team. You couldn’t imagine those functions being merged at Topshop and BHS, for example.

It is crucial that Day hires individuals who can revitalise the direction of the young fashion business, taking back ground that it has lost to its rivals and becoming a serious contender on the high street.

If Day is serious about developing an empire to rival Green’s first he must prove he can conquer the challenges at Jane Norman.

Ruth Faulkner, reporter, Drapers

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