As ever in retail, this year there were some retailers flying high, while others were battling bigger challenges in what was already a difficult trading environment. Drapers assesses who will be looking at back at 2017 with fondness and who will see it as a year to forget
Stories of success
JD Sports Fashion
It was another good year for JD Sports, which said its “highly differentiated” multichannel proposition helped to drive record half-year profits. Pre-tax profit in the 26 weeks to 29 July soared by 33% to £102.7m and revenue increased by 41% to £1.4bn. Executive chairman Peter Cowgill said the retailer was able to attract the newest, “top-tier” product from brands because JD Sports was a favourite athleisure destination for consumers.
Most years are pretty good for etailer Asos, and in 2017 the business continued to fly. Full-year sales and gross profits both jumped by 33% year on year – sales to £1.9bn, and profits to £958.3m.
Asos continued to lead the way with its technological innovation, launching a visual search tool allowing shoppers to find products with photos in August. Chief executive Nick Beighton, who was named the most influential person in fashion retail in Drapers’ Top 100 2017, said continued investment in logistics, pricing and technology would turn Asos into a £4bn business. The etailer also launched its first own-brand beauty and grooming range, Asos Make-Up, in September.
A slew of fast fashion brands moved into the world of own-brand beauty in 2017, looking to secure a slice of the lucrative make-up market. Online beauty gurus on Instagram and YouTube have helped to drive interest in beauty to fever pitch among young shoppers, and retailers are keen not to miss out. From Asos, Boohoo and Missguided to SkinnyDip and Inditex’s Pull & Bear, beauty launches abounded.
Profits slumped at New Look in 2017, as the business struggled to keep us with faster, cheaper rivals. Adjusted EBITDA plummeted by 72.2% year on year to £24.2m in the 26 weeks to 23 September, which the retailer put down to a “challenging” UK sales performance. New Look also reported an underlying operating loss of £10.4m, compared with £59.3m profit in the same period last year. CEO Anders Kristiansen outlined plans to deliver trends faster, discount less and cater for a younger customer, but the rash of bad results spelled the end of his time in the top job in early September. New Look will be hoping executive chairman Alistair McGeorge, who re-joined the business in November, will be a white knight. He was previously executive chairman from May 2011 to September 2013. Non-executive director John Gnodde said McGeorge had the “requisite experience to get the business moving forward again”.
It was a difficult year for 133-year-old premium label Jaeger, which entered administration in April. The once-mighty retailer had been battling operating losses, falling sales and a string of senior departures in the previous 12 months. By mid-April, Jaeger had announced it was closing 20 stores and making over 200 redundancies. However, it was not all bad news. The Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) is understood to have bought Jaeger’s brand name and debt from former owner Better Capital in March. Jaeger later became one of brands stocked in EWM’s new department store concept, Days Department Store, which opened in Carmarthen, south Wales. It relaunched for autumn 17 with a renewed emphasis on its heritage, and plans to open more standalone stores. Former product director Liza Canneford also returned to the retailer in October, nine months after leaving.
Brantano, Shoon, Jones Bootmaker – it was not an easy year for many footwear retailers. Brantano was put into administration in March and, by June, had closed all 69 of its UK stores, resulting in almost 1,000 redundancies across the business. Jones Bootmaker teetered on the edge before being boughtby private equity firm Endless in a prepack administration deal. Struggling retailer Shoon also fell into administration in November, sparking store closures in Winchester, St Albans, Leamington Spa and Guildford.