Next has axed its Asos-style Brand Directory website just 18 months after it launched and migrated selected branded merchandise to the core Next Directory site.
This week, the site’s home page at www.branddirectory.co.uk began diverting shoppers to a “designer brands” section on the Next Directory site. As Drapers went to press, brands stocked in the zone included Firetrap, Superdry, 7 For All Mankind, Original Penguin, Miss Sixty and Polo Jeans Co.
The Brand Directory was originally conceived as a standalone venture to enable Next to leverage its vast home shopping experience to go head to head with the likes of Asos and Littlewoods. It launched as a separate site so that branded suppliers did not have to be associated with the mainstream high street Next brand, something which they were cautious of given their protective distribution policies.
A spokesman for Next said: “At the time we set it up some brands did not want to go in the Next Directory but were happy to go on a branded directory. Now they have seen the execution they are happy to trade on the Next Directory.
“All the brands we wanted to keep trading with will go into the Directory. We are taking far more on the Next Directory so there is no point in running brands on a separate site.”
Next is not the only large-scale retailer to attempt to attack sales of branded merchandise online. Tesco is due to launch a branded clothing website this autumn. It too struggled to persuade brands to supply it because of its scale and positioning in the market. As a result, it has opted to launch a separate standalone site.
Next’s Directory business, which includes its catalogue and online sales, grew 1.1% in the 25 weeks to July 18. Earlier this year, Next chief executive Simon Wolfson admitted that Brand Directory had not been as successful as other areas of its Directory business. But this week the retailer denied the closure of the site was due to underperformance.
Sources told Drapers that Next had failed to invest the necessary capital in marketing to drive traffic to the site and instead relied on low-key reciprocal links on the core Next Directory website, which kept the brands happy but which failed to drive traffic between the two.
Other sources said the design of the site was not as sophisticated or targeted at young shoppers as the likes of Asos, but that running brands on the core site, which is the market leader in terms of share of traffic, made much more sense.
l Separately, Wallis merchandise director Gwynn Milligan is understood to be joining etailer Asos in
a merchandising director role. Milligan had been with Arcadia Group, which owns womenswear chain Wallis, since 1993 and at Wallis since 1998. It is not yet known who will replace her.