New owner Edinburgh Woollen Mill to double store numbers in 15 months
Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) is to double the number of Jane Norman stores as part of its plans to revive the 50-year-old brand after acquiring it out of administration in June.
EWM Group chairman and chief executive Philip Day said over the next 15 months he wanted to add between 50 and 75 stores to the 63 it has retained. He also wants to grow the brand internationally and is examining new markets in Asia.a Day said: “Jane Norman is a tremendous brand, it has a wonderful cachet. There’s a lot of potential to develop it, and a lot of potential to grow it internationally.”
He said Jane Norman had become too associated with a younger demographic, but that the retailer had a much larger appeal than is widely perceived.
Day said: “It’s a brand with attitude. It’s about going out and, whether it’s a young lady or a middle-aged lady, she’s someone who’s got the figure and wants to show it off. It’s very sexy and sophisticated.”
Day said surveys carried out with Jane Norman shoppers showed that 78% of its customers were aged between 20 and 50 years old, rather than the teenage audience with which the brand had become associated.
“The previous management team got the demographic slightly wrong,” said Day.
He said that in the time since the deal he had been looking at the supply chain to ensure the business was using the right materials and offering value for money to its customers.
Jane Norman already has tie-ups with international partners in the Middle East, the Netherlands, Germany and the Republic of Ireland and Day said other markets including China, India, Korea and Japan were under consideration.
Having been unable to agree a deal to keep concessions open in Debenhams, EWM is in talks to open concessions in some House of Fraser stores, although the main focus will be on standalone stores. He added that Jane Norman had a good online proposition and that lessons could be exported to the group’s other brands.
The Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group – which has 850 stores in total and will turnover £450m this year – was a surprise buyer of Jane Norman, but Day said it fits the model of company which his business wants to acquire.
“I’ve had my eye on Jane Norman for seven or eight years, I’ve always admired the brand. It’s always delivered massive sales per square foot.”
He added that the company – which also bought homewares chains Ponden Mill and Rosebys in recent years – is open to further acquisitions. “When a business fits the profile and we like it we are quite prepared to get stuck in, pay a fair price and work on it on a long-term basis.”
EWM’s core business caters for older shoppers, although Day said the typical EWM shopper had come down in age since a management buy-in in 2001.
The business is now owned wholly by the Day family and he said that following the Jane Norman deal, the group can now serve customers from the age of 15 through to 80.