The grocer’s clothing brand Tu celebrates its fifth birthday this week. Business unit director for clothing Adrian Mountford talks about its growth and what’s next.
Which categories have been most successful for Tu?
Casualwear is our staple. In particular, knitwear and jersey are very successful. One of the surprises to us was the success of our jeans lines as the fit of jeans is far more critical than other products. Also, we have done a lot of work on the fit of our lingerie and it is now showing unbelievable growth. This year, schoolwear is up 40% year on year.
What are the key items in the autumn 09 collection?
Our £5 leggings are doing very well, and the boyfriend jacket at £22 has been brilliant. We also have a great range of outerwear, and our £45 macs are having a great season so far.
What sets Tu apart from other supermarket clothing brands?
We didn’t want to go down the cheap and cheerful high fashion route. Our customers are slightly older, slightly more sophisticated and tend to have a bit more disposable income than the other supermarkets – much more like the Marks & Spencer customer. Womenswear is our heartland too whereas, for example, kidswear is very big for George at Asda and Tesco.
Has the pricing structure changed in the past five years?
When we started we had similar prices to the high street, so we brought them down to those of the supermarkets. On like-for-like products we are the same as the other supermarkets but we also have some slightly higher priced items.
What has been the biggest change since Tu was established five years ago?
The clothing operation used to be outsourced, with Adams running kidswear and BMB operating the menswear and womenswear. It was enormous fun starting from scratch when everything was taken in-house five years ago, with our head of merchandising David Francis, and we now have more than 200 staff in our Coventry office.
What’s next for Tu?
We are focusing on increasing our clothing footprint with both new and reformatted stores. We will also continue to develop the range and, if we get more space in stores, will develop our formalwear offer for men and women. With more store space we would also not rule out developing a sub-brand. We will also launch clothing online one day, but it’s not in our immediate plans.
Volume market share
Value market share
Targeted turnover, up from £500m at present
Garments sold each year