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New Look to swoop into branded market

Fast-fashion giant to link up with third-party brands for online offensive

New Look is gearing up for a dramatic push into the branded young fashion market and is poised to approach third-party brands to supply its website in time for a pre-Christmas launch.

The UK’s second-largest womenswear retailer is understood to be targeting brands such as womenswear labels Motel, Lipsy and Vila, streetwear brands G-Star and Gio-Goi and denim label Levi’s.

The 600-store fast-fashion chain’s pitch to brands is expected to centre on its high street muscle in the young fashion sector and online. Its website has around 2 million hits each week.

The brands will be sold under the main New Look site alongside the retailer’s own-label product, and the launch marks the first time that New Look has embarked on selling branded menswear. The retailer already sells third-party womenswear brands such as AX Paris and Apricot in-store and online via a concession agreement with Hallett Retail.

The move follows a similar initiative by Next-owned Lipsy, which launched a branded online offer last year, and catalogue retailer Argos, which is poised to launch a branded online offer later in 2011. Amazon has also taken tentative steps into the branded market, while Asos posted a solid performance over Christmas.

New Look has highlighted ecommerce as a key growth driver and invested more than £1m in revamping its website almost a year ago. Over the next 12 months, it will introduce the option to buy online product in-store, a mobile app and a click-and-collect service. Its online performance, which saw it reach 3.3% of internet clothing market share over Christmas, was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal performance - like-for-likes slumped 9.1% in the 15 weeks to January 8.

New Look’s decision to launch third-party brands is expected to concern indies and may not garner immediate favour with brands.

The owner of one young fashion independent told Drapers: “This year is going to be tough as it is and this is just another threat to consider. With more indies cutting back on forward order a lot of brands will be tempted by something like this. If I was the boss of a brand, it’s something I’d take very seriously.”

New Look declined to comment.

Shouting about value

Amy Shields, news editor

After stripping out the effect of the snow, like-for-likes during the 15-week period slumped 6.1%, demonstrating that bad weather was only the tip of the iceberg of New Look’s problems.

While the retailer put the majority of the decline down to the disruption caused by the relocation of its head office from Weymouth to London, chief financial officer Alastair Miller conceded that shoppers had traded up over Christmas.

As well as its online plans, New Look has adopted a ‘99p strategy’, adding the sum to its normally nicely rounded ‘value’ price points - or in 10% of cases shaving 1p off. The jury is out on the shopper psychology of this but Miller said the chain would shout loudly about its value credentials this year.

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