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Sainsbury’s plots further Tu expansion as sales rise 5%

Sainsbury’s will convert some of its food selling space into non-food later this year, to the benefit of its clothing business Tu.

The supermarket chain will introduce trials giving Tu significantly more trading space in approximately eight stores later this year, Sainsbury’s non-food trading director James Brown told Drapers.

It comes as Tu’s sales increased by 5% during the 12 weeks to June 6, outperforming Sainsbury’s overall like-for-like retail sales excluding fuel, which fell by 2.1% during the same period.

Tu currently trades from approximately 5,000 sq ft of space in an average store and from a total of 2m sq ft in 400 stores across the 1,200-store portfolio. But Sainsbury’s has identified 1.5m sq ft of space that it no longer needs for food and non-food own-brand products, of which Tu will be given a “significant share”.

“To put it into perspective, the new format, which we have now rolled out across 150 stores and introduces more mannequins and enhanced merchandising to focus on outfit-building, was only trialled in two stores to start with in 2013,” said Brown.

Sainsbury’s will also introduce heritage men’s sportswear brand Admiral exclusively into 90 stores from July 15. The 28-piece collection is priced from £16 to £30, divided into two ranges. Retro features football kit-inspired pieces, while Gold is a more contemporary take on menswear with more luxurious pieces such as cashmere-mix knitwear.

Brown said the latest Gok for Tu collection has performed consistently well since its launch in October 2011, boosting overall womenswear sales. The hope is that Admiral will do the same for menswear.

Womenswear currently accounts for 60% of sales, kidswear 25%, menswear 12%, jewellery 2% and sunglasses 1%.

Brown also confirmed that Sainsbury’s will roll out online sales of Tu this summer following a “very successful” nine-month trial in specific regions.

The supermarket has maintained its position of 10th in clothing sales by value, from 12th last year, according to data from research firm Kantar Worldpanel.

“It was our ambition to get into the top 10, so I’m really proud of that,” said Brown. “We are seventh in terms of volume too, so it shows it is not just about growing our volume but also our value share.”

He said he was particularly pleased to have increased first-quarter sales against tough comparatives. Last year, the 12-week period included Mother’s Day, which causes a spike in Tu sales thanks to gifts such as women’s accessories and nightwear, and the build-up to World Cup with football-associated items.

“The next thing for us will be our online rollout, which needs to complement what we do in retail with things like the click-and-collect offer that is really good. It will be all about the combination of those two,” he said.

Brown said the design team has grown to 37 people, with the expanded headcount including a new designer for footwear in the last year. “We can focus on individual categories well to make sure we translate those catwalk styles.”

He said six-week drops into stores are essential to ensure that shoppers see newness when they shop.

“It’s all about being the destination for high-street style at supermarket prices,” he concluded.

@Tara_Hounslea

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