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Fashion Forum: Brand experience key to inspirational offer

A joined up online and offline experience, relentless customer focus and investment across every channel are key to creating an inspirational offer, according to Oasis and Warehouse chief executive Liz Evans.

Speaking at Drapers Fashion Forum on November 27, Evans emphasised the need to hone your brand DNA and avoid trying to be all things to all people.

“You must execute with excellence and there cannot be any disconnect for the customer between the store and online experience. So it’s all about a holistic strategy, blending innovation in store with investment in digital,” she said.

For SuperGroup chief operating officer Susanne Given, a great brand experience helps product stand out from the crowd, especially in the highly competitive young fashion market. Superdry’s Regent Street flagship works as a “brand theatre”, which helps the retailer connect with a global consumer base, who can then explore the product online.

Jigsaw chief executive Peter Ruis agrees you cannot separate the off and online experience. “It is one customer, two experiences. The key is how you differentiate yourself and do your own thing.” The aim is to get people talking about the brand, something Jigsaw’s recent poster advertising campaign at Oxford Circus underground station was designed to achieve.

The relentless pace of the multichannel world can, however, undermine consistency, warned Evans. “While we want a connected experience, we can’t achieve this every day,” she said, emphasising the importance of looking past sales figures to the customer data in order to create a more personalised offer.

Whereas two years ago both Oasis and Warehouse sent out mass emails to attract consumers, now the approach is more sophisticated, focused on select messaging to different customer bases.

The biggest consumer base for British luxury lingerie label Agent Provocateur is the US, with stores in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now in its 20th anniversary year, Agent Provocateur will open its 100th store in Sydney next month, as well as a new location in Texas. The US business complements stores in China, the Middle East and Russia.

“The UK and Ireland are tough markets,” said chief executive Garry Hogarth. “In the next two to three years we have 60 shops planned and not one in the UK. The government could do more to help UK retailers. In the US, for example, there is nothing like the business rates that affect us here in Britain.”

The impending UK election was on all the retailers’ minds, as was the impact of the discount culture. “High street promotions have not stopped since the summer,” noted Given. “This promotional atmosphere is difficult for a full price focused brand like us. Next year will be difficult and it will be time to invest in service and international expansion.”

Evans warned the early discounting in place since September will ultimately change the mindset of consumers, who will come to expect more promotions. “Post-Christmas it will be about whether brands have the confidence to hold out for normal trading,” she said. “2015 will be another year of winner and losers, but with better product and service there is still room to win.”

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