An outfit from George at Asdas spring/summer range

An outfit from George at Asda's spring/summer range

Supermarket fashion brand George at Asda, a unit of retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, is working to "dial up" its fashion credentials this year with shorter lead times on fast fashion following its acquisition of the sourcing arm of its Turkish supplier GAAT.

Speaking in London today (11 May), George at Asda executive managing director Andrew Moore said the acquisition of GAAT will reduce sourcing times on products it buys.

"Going back a few years we were talking sourcing times of 16 to 12 weeks,," he explains. "Those lead times are coming down, so now we're regularly talking sourcing times of six to eight weeks, but we're not stopping there.

"By taking the skills base and the experience that exists in the GAAT base and integrating it into our organisation, six weeks will be more commonplace and we see the opportunity to get it down to four."

Shorter lead times have already benefited the retailer in the way it responded to the recent cold weather in the UK.

By looking at long range weather forecasts, George responded to the impending colder weather in April and May by using its short lead times with Turkey to bring forward some GBP6m in orders for ponchos and zip-through hoodies.

"I don't think it's acceptable for any retailer not to have knitwear in the coldest month of the year, we've got to find ways in which we've got a supply chain response mechanism where we can respond to new trends as they come through," he says.

This shift to a seamless supply chain means the UK's third largest clothing chain is aiming to develop better quality, faster and lower cost fast fashion sourcing.

"By taking this opportunity we have with GAAT, we think we can transform our model from being something that has been a traditional buying-led model to something that is more responsive and much more appropriate for today's retail challenges," Moore says.

UK sourcing is something the brand is also growing, announcing in March that it has signed production deals with seven factories in the Midlands. But this is something Moore says is "only small" and will "only ever be small", as the UK has lost factories and lost the skills base to be able to make clothing on a larger scale.

The retailer plans to continue to drive its fashion credentials through a series of sub-brands including fashion forward children's wear line Love to Laugh, fast fashion brand g:21, Moda at George, men's casual line Boston Crew, Barbara Hulanicki, Charlie Allen tailoring and through its sponsorship of Graduate Fashion Week.

At the same time it is also keeping a keen eye on its "need to have" products, such as basics, underwear and children's school uniforms.

In children's wear, the retailer has been working hard to ensure that it manages availability across its school uniforms, with around 2,000 size and colour options and ensuring all of these are available 52 weeks of the year.

As part of efforts to improve availability, new merchandising and assortment tools are also being rolled out. Moore said the new systems will mean a much better balance of products across its stores, including demographic profiling to allow it to tailor assortments to each store's catchment area.

The brand is also working on its formats, both revamping its concessions as well as working with franchise partners to open standalone stores in the Channel Islands and the Middle East.

Clothing departments have so far been revamped in two Asda stores - one of which saw its sales ranking jump from 12th to number one in its first week of trading. "We are looking at the lessons from that and how to roll it out."

More standalone stores look set for the retailer's future, with Moore confirming that it is investigating other markets "as we speak". However, the retailer is unlikely to open any standalone stores in the UK, as it has "too much on at the moment".