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Steering a course

With many Danish businesses keen to expand their presence in the UK market, three brand heads discuss their strategies and the challenges they face

KENNETH SOGDIS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BLEND AND BLENDSHE

- What are the biggest challenges for your brand in the UK?

Because of the grip the multiples have on the UK's young fashion market our strategy is aimed at opening up retail through franchise partnerships. We have 300 doors in the UK already but know that with our price point in the market you need the profile that only a 300-plus high street fascia can give you. We opened one recently in Manchester's Arndale Centre and plan to build the chain to 30 to 50 stores in the next five years.

- How many collections and deliveries do you offer a year?

Because the brand is set up for retail and is a young fashion business we have 10 collections a year. They are made up of two preview collections, two mainlines, two transitional collections and four express ranges. In retail it's all about fast response and this set up enables us to respond to demand and trends in season.

- What marketing support do you provide for retailers?

We have a collaboration at the moment with Fergie from pop group Black Eyed Peas. She has been the face of the brand for the past two seasons and has also designed a range for us. This has worked well in marketing terms. We have had some good PR and we've been able to use our shoots with her to create some strong PoS material. We also send out a Blend magazine four times a year to stockists, which they can distribute to customers.

- How are you tackling the effect of climate change on seasonal product?

The seasons do seem a bit crazy. The retail selling window for autumn is so short. It's the same here in Denmark - the cold weather doesn't arrive until after Christmas when everyone has gone on Sale. Rather than limit our outerwear offer we try to make it more flexible. For example, all of our men's jackets have a detachable warm lining. You have to adapt your product to give retailers a sales story and achieve the same margins.

PER PATRICK DALLGAARD ELLISON, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CCDK

- What are the biggest challenges for your brand in the UK?

Customers have so much choice in the UK, so it's a real challenge to ensure they are aware of the quality of what we offer and why they should choose our collection above another. We work with a lot of silks, cottons and satins, and every garment has some hidden detail. We need to ensure that our brand message is heard and understood - that the passion we have for each piece does not get lost.

- How many collections and deliveries do you offer a year?

We produce four ranges a year - spring is delivered in phases from January to March, high summer is delivered in April, autumn is sent out during July and September, while winter is delivered in October. I think any more than that makes it confusing for multi-brand retailers to keep track. I used to work for Esprit, which did 10 collections a year, and often found that retailers forgot they had bought two of the collections in the programme.

- What marketing support do you provide for retailers?

We shoot a lot of material that retailers can use for point of sale and produce books and brochures and postcards. We have a very proactive approach to consumer advertising as well, and try to do an appropriate amount for each market.

- How are you tackling the effect of climate change on seasonal product?

We have been working with what I call all-year weights and qualities for years. For example, I think there are only two pieces of true outerwear in the autumn collection so we will not have to make any drastic adjustments. Even so, I think it has affected everybody's approach to heavier knits. The onus is on brands to come up with options that can achieve the same sort of retail margins as outerwear and that people will want to buy.

TIM JUSTESEN, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, DAY BIRGER ET MIKKELSEN

- What are the biggest challenges for your brand in the UK?

The challenge in the UK is getting distribution right. The market is so retail-led. We have 160 stockists but we want to expand, and that is difficult to get right. We need to get the correct level of own retail against the wholesale business. Unless 20% of your business is retail, you are not making much of an impact on the consumer. We are nowhere near 20% retail in the UK, so there is a real opportunity for us to grow on a shop-in-shop and concession basis.

- How many collections and deliveries do you offer a year?

We have two collections a season which come in six drops. But we are working towards 30% of business being ordered in-season and 70% forward order. The more we get into retail, the more we have to do this and it will benefit wholesale customers. We want to be at this level by spring 09 at the latest. It will take this long because we need to build the retail business to a certain level before we can get the information we need to inform the in-season offer.

- What marketing support do you provide for retailers?

In the past we invested in consumer magazine advertising but we found that we did not see the return we would wish for on the investment. We have found PR to be a better investment and that working closely with certain lifestyle magazines has paid off for us. One of the reasons we want to develop more retail is that as a lifestyle brand we can allow the product to market itself.

- How are you tackling the effect of climate change on seasonal product?

Layering has always been a huge part of what we do, so we are probably less affected by the warmer winters than some other brands which do a lot of outerwear or heavier knitwear. So we do not foresee any changes to our collections because of the weather, although I'm sure that over time we will do more jerseys through the year as part of an offer geared to retail.

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