Tesco’s F&F clothing arm could suffer as a result of the supermarket’s wider performance, industry insiders have warned.
Last week, Tesco reported a 3.7% decline in UK like-for-like sales for the 13 weeks to May 24, but declined to break down figures for clothing.
The latest Verdict Retail data suggests F&F’s market position by value will drop from seventh to eighth as TK Maxx edges above it, with market share expected to remain flat at 3%. Retailer sources told Drapers F&F trading was thought to be better than the supermarket as a whole, but not as strong as previous years.
James McGregor, director of consultancy Retail Remedy and former global trading operations manager for George at Asda, said the problems facing the UK’s largest retailer could hamper F&F.
“Footfall is in decline and Tesco is moving out of larger stores into smaller ones that don’t stock clothing,” he said.
“Online penetration is not strong compared with the high street despite having stores everywhere for click-and-collect, which should be a strength.”
Investment may also be diverted into “priority” areas, McGregor added: “When it comes to major decisions in terms of investment, F&F will be way down the pecking order.”
One supplier told Drapers he believed trading was down on previous years, citing changes in personnel, logistics and general bureaucracy as influential factors. The source also claimed F&F buyers were not selecting the right product.
“You can have the greatest product in the world and nobody will buy it because it doesn’t fit their shop story,” he said.
A rival retailer told Drapers the adult clothing division had been “struggling”. Another source noted F&F as a “valid clothing brand” was being tainted by its association with the supermarket. “If F&F is going to be taken seriously, it needs to be a standalone name. But even the website isn’t ‘F&F’ or ‘Florence & Fred’ – it’s Tesco,” he said.
A Tesco spokeswoman said: “Our clothing business is central to our plans to become a leading multichannel retailer. We continue to make investments in the clothing departments in our larger stores and to build our online offer, making it simple and convenient for customers to shop with us.
“The work we’ve done to improve the quality and design of our ranges has been well received by customers and commentators alike. We’re also very excited about our international franchise business, particularly plans to bring F&F to new markets.”