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Review of the year 2015: Winners and losers

As the year draws to a close, Drapers looks at the fashion businesses that have succeeded and struggled during 2015.

Winners

Primark

Primark burst onto the American scene in September, making its US debut with the opening of a 77,300 sq ft store in Boston, Massachusetts. But it did not just expand into the US - it added 20 new stores and almost 1m sq ft of space to its global retail portfolio during the year to September 12. By year end, it had 293 stores worldwide, and its sales were up 13% year on year. All of which helped to secure chief executive Paul Marchant the number one slot on Drapers’ Top 100 list of fashion’s most influential individuals for 2015, earlier this month.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw’s turnover broke through the £100m barrier in the year to October 3, while its underlying earnings almost tripled to £5.4m. The results marked the end of the second full year under chief executive Peter Ruis, who joined from John Lewis in September 2013, and has led the retailer’s turnaround. In November, Jigsaw unveiled a defiant manifesto setting out its full-price strategy and reasons for deciding not to take part in Black Friday on November 27. Ruis later said this had been “without a doubt” the right decision, as it didn’t lose any margin. It’s For Life Not Landfill campaign also scooped the retailer the Best Fashion Marketing Campaign of the Year prize at the Drapers Awards in November.

John Lewis

The department store stalwart makes it into the winners list again this year, after a busy 2015 saw it change its fashion buying structure, open a full-line store in Birmingham and announce plans to make its European debut in the Netherlands next year. Managing director Andy Street’s decision to charge for click-and-collect sparked a nationwide debate, with many commending the retailer for taking a stand. Sales at John Lewis grew 3.8% to £1.9bn in the half-year ended August 1, with like-for-likes up 3%.

Shop Direct

2015 saw the launch of Shop Direct’s standalone luxury website VeryExclusive.co.uk, led by managing director Sarah Curran. Overall the Shop Direct group, including key fashion platform Very.co.uk, has had a storming year, enjoying a 78% surge in full year pre-tax profit to £71.7m in the 12 months to June 3 - its third consecutive year of record results. Shop Direct won big at the Drapers Digital Awards 2015, scooping prizes for Best Pure-play Etailer and the Overall Award for Excellence for Very.co.uk.

Losers

Sports Direct

Sports Direct’s owner Mike Ashley will be happy to put 2015 behind him, and with it all of the bad press over his company’s employment practices. Channel 4’s Dispatches and The Guardian were among those to carry out investigations into the sportswear retailer and its subsidiaries this year, including its treatment of USC’s Dundonald warehouse staff after the young fashion chain collapsed into administration, as well as Sports Direct’s use of zero-hours contracts. MPs waded into the debate, and the topic was even debated in the House of Commons.

Bonmarché

Value retailer Bonmarché lowered its full year profit expectations to between £10.5m and £12m for the year to the end of March 2016, due in part to what it described as a “very challenging” promotional market. In November the firm said its expectations for the full year would remain unchanged if trading conditions normalised, but in December the retailer said trading since Black Friday had been “volatile” and that was likely to continue for the remainder of the winter season. It was also revealed in December that chief executive Beth Butterwick, who was named Fashion Retailing Personality of the Year at the Drapers Awards 2015, is to leave Bonmarché to head up Karen Millen in 2016.

Jaeger

Another challenging year for Jaeger saw chief executive Colin Henry leave the business in September, partway through a five-year turnaround plan. Reports suggest private equity owner Better Capital wanted to take the brand more mainstream; something Henry was set against. At the beginning of December, Jaeger reported a pre-tax loss of £7.9m for the year ending February 28, despite sales rising 6% to £84.2m. This news came a week after it emerged Better Capital had ploughed £10m into the chain between May and October.  

East

East was forced to close 19 stores and five concessions after falling into administration, axing 155 jobs as part of a pre-pack deal. The slimmed down womenswear retailer continues to operate 82 stores and concessions, alongside its website. East’s management later blamed an “inconsistent” approach to design for its worsening financial position in the build-up to the administration.

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