House of Fraser (HoF) is cutting between 30 and 40 third-party womenswear brand partners from its stores as it reshapes its portfolio with a clearer focus on the core customer.
Maria Hollins, who joined HoF in the newly created role of executive director for buying and design last May from Asos, said the mix of third-party brands it currently works with had been ”eclectic without much consistency”. She has been working to reshape the portfolio for autumn 17.
She would not confirm which brands or concessions HoF will drop, but said discussions are currently underway. She pointed out that stores offer different brands depending on the location, so some of those affected may only be stocked in one or two stores.
HoF works with 677 brand partners across the portfolio.
For autumn 17, HoF will roll some of its concessions, such as Jigsaw, Whistles and The North Face, to more stores, while it will give more space to others including Mint Velvet and Barbour.
Online she said the firm had dropped 170 brands over the past few months to focus on the core offer of fashion, beauty, home and lifestyle, axing a range of non-core categories such as garden sheds and breathalysers, of which the site offered nine options.
Drapers exclusively revealed in September last year that the department store was axing four house brands to focus on growing its remaining labels.
Hollins confirmed that it will have five women’s house brands for autumn 17, comprising Linea, Biba, Label Lab, Maison de Nimes and a new label set to launch in August. Therapy, Dickins & Jones, Gray & Willow and Episode have been dropped.
“We want fewer but better house brands and some of them were small in terms of size of range and turnover,” she said. “There was an element of duplication too. We have focused on getting a clear product handwriting, maintaining fit across the ranges, and done a lot of work on price to make sure it is competitive but we’re not compromising on quality.”
On Linea, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, she said: “It started to become quite old fashioned and lost sight of its end use so we have focused on smart daywear. We have also refined it to have cleaner and more contemporary silhouettes with a subtle colour palette.
“Biba is one of our most loved brands and so there is not much change there although we are looking to upscale the qualities and price, with better fabrics like silk.”
On Label Lab, she has introduced more colours including white, blush pink and pale blue, while for Maison de Nimes the range of denim will be expanded with new washes and styles.
Hollins said the retailer is also introducing a new ”test bed” concept to five stores initially, which will allow HoF to test new brands and offer more exclusive product. It will be a small area in store that will be refreshed each season and brands can be rolled out into the main collections if successful.
It comes after Marks & Spencer digital director David Walmsley, who became chief customer officer in June last year, led work to identify HoF’s core customer.
HoF ran its customer records through an Experian database. The process found the core customer’s family’s income is two to three times the national average, she generally has a couple of children and is degree educated.
“Jo, as we call her, is purpose-driven and cares about her children, partner, parents, job and community,” he said. “Her children are perhaps older and she has a bit more time to herself and is open to new things.”