George Davies, the man behind Next, George at Asda and Marks & Spencer’s Per Una brand, is bringing a new value fashion concept to the UK next week after developing it in the Middle East and other markets over the past four years.
Elements of its marketing launch resemble the ‘party plan’ techniques Davies used with Pippa Dee, the womenswear company he worked for before launching Next in 1982.
Styled FG4, the womenswear and kidswear offer was developed in partnership with Fawaz Alhokair, the Saudi Arabian retailing group. In the UK Davies will introduce it online and through pop-up events from March 12 before looking for store sites.
The clothing, footwear and accessories ranges, which will avoid basics, comprise 85 women’s styles and almost 150 kids’ pieces for boys and girls from newborn to 12 years. Prices have not been finalised but Davies called them “affordable”.
The 73-year-old entrepreneur is eyeing market towns for FG4 to avoid high rents. This is also the strategy being followed by Pep&Co, the new value chain headed by ex-Asda boss Andy Bond and former Sainsbury’s Tu chief Adrian Mountford.
Davies told Drapers: “There’s room for possibly hundreds of stores, but I’m in no rush, I want to do it properly. You can’t just look at the map – you’ve got to visit the towns and see the competition. That’s what I’m doing.”
Davies, the recipient of the first Drapers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, said a key part of his vision involves working with local independents through a franchise model: “I want to work with people who know the area and could help with what works where. I want to keep it community-based.”
Echoing the ‘party plan’ model used by brands such as Tupperware, FG4 will be launched with a series of fundraising and marketing events at schools around Gloucestershire, where Davies has his design studio.
Attendees will pay £5 entry, to be donated to the schools, to see a catwalk show of FG4 womenswear and kidswear modelled by members of the local community. Immediately after the show, both ranges will be sold with 20% off.
Six events are planned, the first at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Broadway, Worcestershire, on March 12.
“Online is difficult, because until you get your customer base you don’t get a response. That’s why we’re doing these events as well,” Davies explained. “People say there are too many value brands on offer, so you need to do something different.”
Davies’s last venture, a womenswear concept called Give, was started in 2009 and closed in early 2011. It opened 26 stores in often expensive locations like London’s Regent Street and Bluewater, and had concessions in House of Fraser and a transactional website. Critics said it expanded too quickly, which Davies seems determined to avoid with FG4.
The brand name comes from the first initials of Davies and his Saudi partner, Fawaz Alhokair. Since FG4’s launch four years ago, Alhokair has opened more than 50 stores in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and UAE, and sells online.