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Retailer Insight: You have to innovate in the fight to remain relevant

Shop Direct’s group product director Matt Dixon explains why the firm’s focus on purpose and customer relevance has been successful in the challenging UK fashion market, and why promotions can be good for business.

Shop Direct group product director Matt Dixon

Shop Direct group product director Matt Dixon

Shop Direct group product director Matt Dixon

Shop Direct exists to make good things easily accessible to more people. To us, that means offering the best range of brands, a seamless, inspiring and increasingly personalised user journey, and flexible credit options to help our customers spread the cost.

One of the biggest initiatives we have embarked on is V by Very. Own brands have always been central to our strategy at Shop Direct and, in womenswear, we spotted an opportunity last year to create one hero brand that recognises and serves the many roles our customers play day to day.

Designed with our target customer – a woman aged 25 to 45, who lives with her partner and child – in mind, we launched the brand in September. The collections have drawn critical acclaim and were greeted enthusiastically by customers. We then added menswear and kidswear to the range, also to great reception.

V by Very mixes seasonal pieces with distinctive, must-have fashion essentials, has a consistent handwriting and represents great value.

We listen to our customers’ views every day and look at how they shop to create a data-driven fashion brand that is relevant for them. While we track the latest trends daily, we don’t chase them through our products. For us, it’s about relevance and that’s why we think V by Very has been a huge winner with our customer base. We have been blown away by the reaction.

Of course, we know our customers love big-name brands too – and the way we make them accessible through credit. We offer more than 400 fashion brands across our digital department stores, which is one of the biggest collections in the country. Last year, we added names such as Phase Eight, Aldo and Boux Avenue.

V by Very

V by Very

V by Very

Our customer can access the type of fashion they may not otherwise be able to afford day-to-day through credit, and brands can access a whole new customer base while still selling at full price and thus maintaining brand equity.

But our focus on relevance extends beyond the brands we offer and the fashion we create – it also extends to price.

A number of onlookers have declared the death of full-price retail, suggesting that some retailers have been left offering cost propositions that their customers don’t recognise any more. 

We know customers don’t just want quality, but they also like a deal. It’s why over recent years we have honed our trading strategy to deliver just the right amount of promotions. We are a competitive full-price retailer, but we offer regular, planned promotions within our trading calendar.

Given the radical changes in newness frequency over recent years, specific full-price windows have all but gone. Drops for new items are now at the very least monthly – if not weekly or daily, so we shouldn’t expect promotions to be confined to four main Sale periods a year.

More regular, thoughtful, planned promotions that align with product lifecycles are simply the evolution of the modern cycle. It not only helps us give our customer that relevance she craves, but it also allows us to win in what is a challenging fashion market. We want to turn V by Very into a £200m turnover brand while still giving our customers the most desirable range of big-brand fashion in the UK.

Stay true to your purpose and remain relentlessly focused on relevance – whether in own-brand or branded fashion, and in your trading strategy – and you will continue to delight your customers.



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