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Relaunch of Ladybird + analysis

Shop Direct Group has relaunched kidswear brand Ladybird today via its new www.woolworths.co.uk venture.

The relaunched Ladybird brand, which Shop Direct Group rescued from administration along with Woolworths in February, focuses on nought- to five-year olds and features 300 pieces. It is sold via a dedicated channel on the new site.

Shop Direct Group chief executive Mark Newton-Jones told Drapers: “Ladybird will be about fashion and value. We will launch with 300 products initially, and then double that for autumn. We have a team of designers specifically for ladybird who will work alongside our existing kidswear team.”

Newton-Jones said prices were in line with previous Ladybird pricing. For example, a 15-piece set of babygrows retails for £25 and a two-piece dungaree set is £14.

He said: “Price points will be more expensive than [George at] Asda, but the quality will be better. It will be close to our existing kidswear range, or Next and Marks & Spencer. We will also sell Ladybird through [Shop Direct’s] other brands such a Littlewoods and Additions.”

Before it fell into administration, Ladybird had sales of £250 million.

Newton-Jones said, that despite Woolworths being an online-only retailer, Ladybird still had the potential to reach previous sales levels.

According to figures from TNS Worldpanel Fashion, the online kidswear market (0-16 years old) is shrinking. In the 24 weeks to April 26, online kidswear sales dropped 17% to £153 million, compared to £152m the previous year.

The total market spend in kidswear (both online and via bricks and mortar stores) is also falling, with total market spend down 5% to £2.01 billion for the 24 weeks to April 26, compared to £2.12 billion the previous year.

The market view

Verdict analyst Maureen Hinton said: “Ladybird is a strong brand and very well established, but it will be tougher to bring it back to the attention of customers with it being only online. Recent research we’ve done indicates that less affluent shoppers have reduced their online participation. It is the A/B category that is shopping more online in a recession. If Shop Direct is targeting the original Woolworths shopper, they are the ones less likely to be shopping online at the moment.”

Hinton added that it wouldl also be a challenge to re-establish Ladybird in the current market, with competition from H&M, Primark and the supermarkets who are all pushing price on kidswear. Ladybird will also be fighting against Next and M&S, who are understood to have gained market share following the demise of Woolworths. She added: “If Ladybird can re-establish a strong presence with customers, it could work. If it targets the A/B’s shopping online, with good quality at good prices, it should be able to gain sales.”

Shop Direct Group Update

Separately, Shop Direct Group is launching a new website www.very.co.uk, which is aimed at a younger 25-35 age family customer, to replace its Littlewoods Direct brand. The new site will go head to head with Asos and launch on July 5.

Newton-Jones said: “It is not a rebrand. Our customer base has changed significantly. We have identified 1.5 million customers who buy 80% of their shopping online and are not suited to the Littlewoods proposition, which is aimed at the 35-55 age range. The Very proposition will diverge away from Littewoods and have a very different look and feel.”

The brand will have a monthly magazine, alongside a 300 page catalogue featuring two thirds of the ranges.

Social networking will be key to the new site, with customers and buyers regularly commenting on product and recommending outfits.

Newton-Jones said: “There will be an element of the Asos customer, we are targeting the 25-35 year old mother, but we are also looking at Next, River Island and New Look.”

The new site will stock Shop Direct group’s own brands, alongside capsule ranges from brands such as Preen, Jasmine Guiness, Peaches Geldof for PPQ and an exclusive collection by TV presenter Fearne Cotton.

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