Speaking before next week’s launch of GIVe, his new venture, George Davies tells Jessica Brown about changing shopping habits, the importance of customer service and why there’s more to the high street than the price route.
Next week sees serial brand creator George Davies launch his fourth major fashion venture with GIVe – a premium womenswear chain that will launch in independent department stores such as Beales and Arnotts in Dublin and as a standalone high street chain, beginning with a store on London’s Regent Street.
Davies says he came up with the concept, set to break boundaries in terms of multichannel retail developments, because he was looking to create something to serve today’s ecommerce age. He says he wanted to create a chain that would bring differentiation to today’s homogenised high street as well as delivering female shoppers a high level of service, normally only seen in independent stores.
He says: “I’ve had to understand a lot of new things like Twitter, Facebook and blogging because that’s the route consumers have gone. I feel the high street has left itself open to the rise of that sort of medium. You can buy a Ferrari that’s good value too.
“The big shopping centres also need newness and smaller businesses to interest shoppers. I also thought the level of service women were getting on the high street wasn’t particularly good. I do think the way the industry uses the term ‘value’ is funny. Value is not just simply about a £5 T-shirt.”
The GIVe collection puts an emphasis on premium quality fabrics such as cashmere and silk jersey and much of the range is manufactured in Italy, which means prices creep up to £379 for a pair of stretch leather trousers. Davies explains: “The Matalans and the Primarks gave the high street a real shock and a lot of retailers thought that was the direction to take. I thought that one of the biggest factors missing from the high street was a lack of real service.”
Davies has hired tailors to work in each store to offer an instant alteration service that will eventually stretch beyond taking up hems right through to changing buttons and sewing in shoulder pads.
GIVe represents the most premium venture Davies has worked on, having previously created the Next chain, the value proposition that is George at Asda and Per Una, the casualwear sub-brand at Marks & Spencer. Davies says the positioning was partly led by his choice of fabrics.
The stores are an innovation in themselves. As well as having in-store internet kiosks enabling shoppers to scan barcodes to get information on stock position, fabric type and manufacturing details and view video of the garment on the catwalk, they also have moveable wall fixtures which act as stock cupboards. This will allow Davies to keep stock out on the shopfloor to a minimum, which will add to the feel of exclusivity.
That Davies has chosen to work with independent department stores, operating departments in their stores as a profit-sharing venture, also demonstrates his dynamic thinking and commitment to customer service. He admits he didn’t know the independent market very well prior to creating GIVe but says he immediately wanted to work with the “passionate” people who operate within the indie sector. He adds: “I felt they [indies] had great potential. All of the stores I visited had a really nice feel. Indies have struggled a bit against the competition but they have survived.”
GIVe launch range
140 pieces plus accessories and footwear.
Four colour stories – red and black, purple and black, chocolate and mulberry, blue and grey
Silk jersey black dress £79
Double-breasted boyfriend blazer £150
Angora red coat £379
Leather-lined suede court shoes with stud detail £175
Quilted patent bag £249