Next is gearing up to launch a new own-label brand under its Label division, Drapers can exclusively reveal.
It is understood the brand will launch in August. It will be headed by Gemma Metheringham, creative director of Next Label, the platform through which the retailer sells third-party brands, such as Oasis, Ted Baker, Dune and Monsoon.
Next confirmed the launch but declined to give further details.
A spokesman said: “It’s an interesting and exciting project. The first year will be a trial and we expect modest sales. Thereafter we will see how it goes.”
Industry sources said the launch is a good way for Next to further strengthen its Label offer and may rival John Lewis’s own-brand offer, which includes premium label Modern Rarity, launched last year, and the more casual And/Or, which was launched this spring.
“It will be interesting to see how they position it. The Label part of the business is doing well so this could be Next trying to move in on what John Lewis has done with Modern Rarity,” said one observer.
One Next supplier said: “I think it is a good way forward for them. They have a strong online business and that is growing. With Next’s backing, I think an own label could do well.”
However, she added: “The only worry is that they are trying to get the Next range back on track after a tough season, so they need to be careful not to overlap.”
In March, Next chief executive Lord Wolfson admitted the firm “took its eye off the ball” and introduced too many trend-led pieces into its mainline collections, which contributed to a drop in sales last year. The business recognised the issue in January and is now rectifying the problem.
Pre-tax profit at Next for the year to 31 January 2017 fell 3.8% on 2016, while total group sales edged down 0.3% to £4.1bn for the year. However, the Label business outperformed: total sales were up 14% and full-price sales up 17% on last year.
Next expects full-price and total sales to grow by more than 17% this year.
Metheringham left Karen Millen, where she was chief creative officer, in July 2016 after 17 years to rejoin former employer Next, where she was previously men’s knitwear designer, assistant design manager and head of womenswear design.