In my role as director of womenswear at House of Fraser I often had brands coming to ask for space, and more often than not had to turn them away.
This wasn’t due to quality or design, but more because they had not developed their own distinctive brand image.
There are so many brands out there that if one fails to develop its own personality, then, regardless of its quality, it may never carve a niche for itself.
When we talked about own brands at House of Fraser, something we discussed was whether you would recognise a garment’s brand with the label taken out. A good example is MaxMara, which you would always recognise because it has such a distinct personality, and only picks up on trends that are appropriate for it.
This lesson is key for mid-market brands in particular, which must be careful not to become too similar; they can’t afford to only chase trends and in the process lose their brand identity.
It goes beyond product too. A successful brand should have a strong brand image from product through to graphics, uniqueness, and a point of difference. It should be value focused, which is not just about price but also about great service. Consumers now know they can hang on for six weeks and buy discounted versions.
The luxury brands have this sewn up, so the mid-market brands could learn from them and increase their bottom line. They put their brand image above everything, right down to every detail from location and partners, to merchandising and recruiting staff who reflect their image. Their identity is at the forefront of everything they do as part of an overall vision. Because of this, they don’t need to mark down in season.
Kathryn Horsfall is a freelance consultant