New womenswear agent Nightingale plans to undercut other agencies by offering brands a 6% commission rate – less than half the standard fee.
Nightingale, which is due to launch in January and will be based in London’s Berkeley Square, is the brainchild of agent John Pearce, who has previously acted for German mainstream labels Brax and Michèle. His fee represents a significant drop from the conventional sales agency commission structure of between 10% and 15%.
Pearce said the reduced rate was a response to difficult market conditions. He hopes to attract a larger volume of mainstream womenswear brands than agents usually represent – aiming to sign 20 within the first six months of trading – to make such low fees viable.
The focus will be on brands not already represented in the UK. “Everybody is looking to make their business more efficient and get better value for money,” Pearce said. “Our commission rate gives manufacturers fantastic value for money.”
He is aware the move may make him unpopular with other agents. “Any other agency has had the opportunity to do what I am doing but they have chosen not to,” he said.
Although the rate would undercut other agents by more than half, the response from rivals to Nightingale has been indifferent. One London sales agent, which represents three womenswear brands, described it as a “non-starter”.
“I’m not particularly worried about it, as I don’t think it could ever be profitable offering such a low commission rate,” he said. “The only way that would work is if it was taking on brands that had millions of pounds worth of business and, frankly, brands that have millions of pounds worth of business wouldn’t go through an agency anyway.”
Earlier this year, Drapers reported that the branded market could be ripe for a resurgence after figures from Kantar Worldpanel Fashion showed the two-and-a-half-year trend of declining sales in the sector had come to an end. The branded market was worth £1.6bn and represented 24% of the clothing and footwear sector during the six months to March 28.