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House of Fraser boosts own-label roster with Episode licensing deal

House of Fraser has bought the rights to the Episode brand to bump up its own-label offer.

The department store group will use Episode to replace Platinum, its occasionwear and classic brand aimed at women aged 50-plus.

The finer details of the deal are under wraps, but it is believed to be a UK licensing agreement. Episode’s owner, Hong Kong-based retail group Global Retail Inc, which is owned by Vincent Fang of the Fang knitwear empire, is expected to retain ownership of the brand.

The acquisition of Episode will help House of Fraser in its quest to double its own-brand sales over the next 18 months. Own-label clothing is thought to generate just under £90 million of the group’s £1.25 billion turnover.

Episode will join House of Fraser’s middle market brand Linea, quality fashion label Untold and young fashion brand Therapy.

The new women’s own-label offer will be structured around four customer groups and will cover a breadth of price points, from entry level upwards. Episode will focus on older, classic customers; Linea will serve contemporary professionals; Untold will target fashionable 25-plus women; and Therapy will offer fast fashion for the retailer’s youngest shoppers.

It is understood that House of Fraser’s management felt Platinum had little resonance with shoppers. “It didn’t stand for anything, whereas customers will recognise Episode,” said a source close to the retailer.

House of Fraser’s own labels are thought to generate about 20% of its total clothing sales. Linea is by far the largest, accounting for between £35m to £40m of sales across fashion and homewares.

The department store is also thought to be close to signing a menswear licence to complete its stable of own-label menswear brands, which will sit alongside Episode in terms of profile. It recently signed the UK licence for contemporary menswear brand Kenneth Cole.

Episode has 17 concessions in department stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland, including Beatties, Beales and Arnotts. It is unclear whether it will withdraw from these once the new agreement with House of Fraser kicks off.

House of Fraser declined to comment.

- See page 9 for more on department store fashion.



Sales: about £90 million a year, equivalent to 20% of total clothing sales

Target: £180m in 18 months

Womenswear labels: Episode, Linea, Therapy, Untold

Menswear labels: Howick, Linea, Kenneth Cole. HoF is close to signing a smart-casual menswear licence.

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