Next’s tentative admission that it is considering putting branded clothing into its stores (see page 4) is more interesting for what it says about the plight of mid-market high street multiples in today’s straitened trading climate than what it says about Next as a business.
Next and Marks & Spencer serve roughly the same customer group on clothing. Although each business may face different challenges because of the way they have expanded and developed over the years, essentially they share the same problem as we move into difficult times.
Last time trading was this tough the likes of M&S, Next and Bhs did not have a massive and sophisticated value sector undermining their credentials. How do the likes of M&S and Next convince customers that their own brands’ product is worth spending that little bit extra on?
M&S is already trialling complementary brands on food and there were unconfirmed market rumours earlier this summer that it was considering doing the same on menswear.
Bringing in other people’s labels is not an answer to the underlying problem, and getting into price wars with the supermarkets on school uniforms (see page 5) is not the answer either.
Whether you sell brands or own label, it’s going to be all about your own brand, your proposition, and how you define that to your customer that will mark you out as a winner or loser. And that applies to everyone, from the largest multiple down to the smallest indie.
A great choice of well-edited brands is, of course, critical for multi-branded operators. This week Drapers focuses on the best brands that the streetwear market has to offer. We hope you enjoy it.
Lorna Hall Executive editor