With Miss Sixty treading a similar path to Firetrap, Ruth Faulkner considers why these once-great brands have struggled in recent years.
“All my brands are disappearing,” exclaimed one young fashion retailer when I spoke to her about the future of Sixty Group earlier this week. “First Firetrap and now Miss Sixty. What’s going on?”
A very good question indeed.
It is a more than a coincidence that both Miss Sixty and Firetrap have experienced similar issues at the same time, struggling before being snapped up by outside investors, before ultimately disappearing as a wholesale brand.
One of the main factors is of course the economy. Youth unemployment may have fallen in the last quarter it was measured (to August), but it’s still nearly nudging one million people. If you are targeting that market - which is price sensitive at the best of times - you are targeting people with a lot less cash in their back pocket. High street names such as River Island have already noted the effect it’s having on their business - the more expensive young fashion brands are also suffering.
It is the brands’ responses to this external stress that has led to the situation they are in today.
Some savvy brands such as Superdry have broadened their offer to snare a wider range of consumers, in a bid to avoid the cul de sac of niche appeal. Others have widened their price architecture in a tacit acknowledgement that people will just not pay what they were in the good times. But neither Firetrap nor Miss Sixty have managed to evolve enough to survive.
You can say the same about product.
Neither Miss Sixty nor Firetrap have been able to mature with their customers and retain their shoppers as some others brands in the market have. Stockists have told us how Firetrap was only just returning to form - the autumn 12 collection has been well received, making the demise of it as a wholesale brand the harder pill to swallow. Miss Sixty was in a similar position of not having moved on sufficiently to attract new customers or retain those it once attracted.
This is not to say both brands don’t still have loyal followers, but neither brand is the force it once was during the heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s. The fact they didn’t evolve either in strategy or in product has led them to be shadows of their former selves.