George Davies, the serial brand creator, has been hailed as the saviour of struggling independent department stores across the UK and Republic of Ireland with the launch of his womenswear concept GIVe, which will operate as an innovative profit and cost-sharing venture.
Independent department stores contacted by Drapers said Davies’s new concept - which targets women over 35 and has been designed exclusively for that sector - would give their customers “real choice” and “great value” as well as giving their stores a “real point of difference” on the high street.
It is understood that GIVe will be operated via an innovative new concession model developed by Davies, where the independent department store will provide the staff, and will share the cost of the shopfit and marketing with Davies. The profits after costs will be split between the department store and GIVe, although the actual percentage divide is unclear.
One department store chief executive said: “This is a great way for a new brand to launch. George is investing a lot and it is expensive to launch something new into the market. If the sales are great then this sort of deal will be equal to if not better than operating normal concession terms for us. It’s quite a new model. But everyone should be looking at new ways to do business in this market at the moment.”
Retailers have yet to see the full 150-piece GIVe collection, but most had been shown a handful of samples. Davies, who founded Next, George at Asda and Marks & Spencer’s Per Una sub-brand, is said to be targeting the type of customer who shops at womenswear retailers Karen Millen and Whistles. However, future stockists contacted by Drapers said the styling was more akin to M&S’s Per Una range, albeit with superior quality levels.
The distribution of GIVe will also be tightly controlled, to give stockists maximum exclusivity. Initial plans are for just 20 profit-sharing concessions and six standalone stores. Davies is thought to have given a long-term commitment to only operating one concession or one store per town, something which was welcomed by indie department stores, which have struggled to compete with discount-led competitors.
Department store operator Beales will launch the brand in all its 11 stores in October and is likely to be one of its biggest stockists.
Beales chief executive Tony Brown said: “It is a hybrid between being fashion forward and contemporary. It will be really good value for money. No one pays as much attention to detail of the product and brand as George. GIVe will provide that uniqueness to the retailers and George will protect it.”
Another department store operator said: “There are shoppers in their 30s and 40s who can’t relate to the high street but are not in that classic brand bracket either.”
One department store director considering putting the brand in store said: “I would say it was more Per Una or Next than Karen Millen, but it has a point of difference, with good product and it’s not going to be too expensive,” she said.
Davies, who was awarded the Drapers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, is thought to have meetings lined up with several independent department stores in the coming weeks to bolster the list of stockists. He has also been in close contact with independent department store buying group the Associated Independent Stores about its members stocking the label. In addition to Beales, Elys in Wimbledon, south-west London, and Arnotts in Dublin are also thought to be planning to stock GIVe.
GIVe: the Drapers view
Tackling the over-35s womenswear market in the current climate won’t be easy. Sales to this age group have shrunk 5% against the same period last year, with this group seemingly the hardest hit by the recession.
However, only a fool would bet against George Davies, probably one of the greatest fashion talents in the world and certainly an expert in selling fashion to the over 35s.
A womenswear brand targeting the over 35s which will major on quality at a price is likely to be a hit with shoppers trading up though.
Indies - known for stocking quality brands and providing great service - are one of just three sub-sectors to have recorded sales growth to this age group for the 24 weeks to April 26. Placing GIVe in service-led indie department stores will reinforce Davies’s quality message.
It will also be interesting to see if GIVe hoovers up some of the customers Whistles has abandoned since it targeted a younger audience.