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Sportswear brands ‘more innovative’ than their fashion counterparts

Sportswear brands such as Nike, Adidas and Lacoste are leading the way when it comes to innovation and some of the high street’s biggest fashion firms are falling behind, according to marketing experts.



Nike UK came 12th on the list

It follows publication of the Super Entrepreneurs 2016 list, commissioned by the Marketing Agencies Association, which ranks 200 UK companies according to their attitude to and demonstration of innovation.

Of the clothing firms on the list, sportswear brands dominated, with Nike UK, Adidas UK, Converse, Pentland Brands, Puma UK, Fred Perry, Lacoste UK and Dunlop Slazenger all making appearance. Amazon UK, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer ranked highly, but overall there were comparatively few fashion or footwear brands and retailers.

Sports labels’ success can be attributed to their “extremely high levels of innovation” and “dramatic expansion from their core product areas”, said Tim Bourne, chairman of the MAA and joint chief executive of marketing agency Exposure.

He told Drapers: “Between them, Nike, Converse and Adidas all lead the way with their innovative behaviours, as they’ve been expanding dramatically from their core product areas.

“Nike, for example, is making incredible investments into new technology. Behind the scenes, they’ve been innovating with new recycled materials and producing products without the use of water. Sportswear brands are also at the forefront of social technologies, developing items that enable consumers to socialise their sporting performance by sharing it online.

“These are companies that have invested heavily in consumer insight and created products based on perceived consumer need in future.”

According to Bourne, this is where the fashion sector “fell short”.

“Although fashion previously led the way with ecommerce and click and collect initiatives, its tendency is to focus on the now rather than the future by concentrating short-term profitability from next season’s collection rather than what they can do to innovate their manufacturing processes in the long-term like Nike.

“With the advent of the millennial generation, the fashion sector will have to change its pre-existing communications model to rely less heavily on store fronts and traditional advertising. 40% of media is consumed digitally and this is set to rise to 80% so investment needs to reflect this.

“Going forward, I would like to see them taking money out of their core business sectors and invest in their physical retail space to use it as a way of communicating with clients and encouraging them to interact with the brand, rather than just using it to generate sales per square foot.”

The Super Entrepreneurs list is voted for by a panel of 24 experts across a variety of sectors, including Andy Rubin, chairman of Pentland Brands, and Marc Worth, founder of WGSN and Stylus.

Each company was awarded a score for their attitudinal approach to entrepreneurship and the physical manifestations of this. Results were then translated into a classification system ranging from AAA to CC. Dyson came top overall.

Top 10 retail companies

  1. Amazon UK (number 6 overall)
  2. John Lewis (9)
  3. Ikea (21)
  4. Waitrose (27)
  5. Sainsbury’s (61)
  6. Marks & Spencer (66)
  7. B&Q (120)
  8. Boots UK  (125)
  9. Clarks (139)
  10. Toys “R” Us (180)


Top 10 overall

  1. Dyson
  2. Google UK 
  3. Apple UK
  4. Facebook UK
  5. Lego Company
  6. Amazon UK
  7. The Walt Disney Company
  8. Samsung Electronics UK
  9. John Lewis
  10. PayPal UK



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