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House of Fraser axes four own brands

House of Fraser is shrinking its portfolio of womenswear house brands in an attempt to revive the division’s flagging sales, Drapers has learned.

The company is axing four house brands and will focus on growing its remaining labels. Drapers understands around 15 jobs are under review as a result.

HoF currently stocks 15 house brands across fashion and home, including Linea, Biba, Episode, Dickins & Jones and Therapy. It declined to name the brands it is dropping, but one source indicated Therapy is on the list. None of the menswear or home brands are affected.

HoF declined to comment on potential job cuts, but confirmed a consultation is underway with a small number of staff.

Earlier this week, the business reported sales of £573.3m for the half year to July 30 – flat on the same period last year. It said the trading environment had been “very challenging”. (Continues below)

Speaking to Drapers today, HoF chief executive Nigel Oddy explained that womenswear has been a clear problem area: “We were generally pleased with the half-year sales and margin, but one area that was disappointing was womenswear and, within that, house brands.”

House brands currently only account for 15% of overall fashion sales, dragged down by the poor performance in womenswear.

“It’s a tough part of the market,” Oddy said.

Mary Portas for House of Fraser

Mary Portas for HoF

HoF axed its Mary Portas brand last year

HoF has already carried out a degree of brand rationalisation over the past 18 months, quietly dropping Mary Portas and Pied a Terre.

In May, Oddy drafted in former Asos retail director Maria Hollins to the newly created role of executive director for buying and design. She indirectly replaced executive director for apparel and accessories Jackie Hay and head of home, food, and beauty Ysanne Jenkins, who left their roles earlier in the year.

“I had a clear brief when I came here,” Hollins told Drapers. “The biggest focus needed to be on womenswear because it has been the most challenging area of the business and, within that, house brands. 

“We have rather a lot of house brands in womenswear, some of which are relatively small – and, as a result of having so many different designers and buyers focused on these individual brands, there was an element of overlap within them.

“I felt very strongly that we needed to have bigger ranges. We’re not looking to reduce our house brand business overall – we’re focusing on driving greater sales and volumes in the brands we retain.”

Oddy emphasised that HoF is still “absolutely committed” to its house brand offer: “It’s a key part of our strategy – it gives us an element of difference and they are exclusive to us. With this process we want to make the big bigger and better, and cut out that proliferation and overlap.”

In total, HoF employs around 600 people at its head office in London, including more than 200 in buying and design.

Readers' comments (2)

  • 200 in buying and design for less than 100 stores. GULP!

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  • There is a simple reason why own label isn't working for HOF. Discounting.

    While there is extra margin in own label, as HOF discount ad nauseam on branded stock, this means their own label suffers as customers ignore it, so it is self defeating.

    If HOF kept discounting to a bare minimum, then their own label would have a reason for being, but HOF's retail stance means this will not happen.

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