Blog: Leonie BarrieBreathing new life into Aquascutum

Leonie Barrie | 14 September 2009

Uncertainties over the future of Aquascutum came to an end last week after it emerged that the British luxury brand has been sold by its Japanese owners to fashion entrepreneur Harold Tillman.

Best known for breathing new life into Jaeger, Tillman will work with Jaeger group CEO Belinda Earl to oversee a group with combined annual sales of more than GBP300m (US$496m). Tillman and Earl have pledged to expand the Aquascutum brand, but acknowledge that some synergies with Jaeger will be necessary.

Under the terms of the agreement, YGM Trading, Aquascutum's licensee in Hong Kong and China, has acquired the rights for the company's Asia business.

Another British brand is also in the midst of a resurgence, after strong demand for its clothing lines helped Laura Ashley Holdings to a 6.3% rise in first-half sales. The fashion and home furnishings retailer, which operates 231 stores in the UK, is optimistic this momentum will continue for the rest of its financial year.

Laura Ashley has also been helped by higher sales in its international business, where new stores contributed to an 11.4% rise in first-half revenues. But it blamed foreign exchange losses for a 77% slump in pre-tax profits.

At US women’s wear retailer The Talbots, however, second quarter losses nearly doubled to US$17.6m as sales continued to spiral down. Even so, the firm still managed to trump analyst forecasts, and said it is beginning to benefit from earlier strategic initiatives which have helped reduce operating expenses and lift margins.

Looking ahead, though, both its guidance and general approach to the market are conservative, with the rest of this fiscal year seen as crucial to the company's future.

Other retailers are stepping up their focus on online apparel and footwear customers in an attempt to grow sales – the most recent of which is Gap Inc’s shoe site Piperlime, which has added women's wear to its line-up. Labels including Marc by Marc Jacobs, 7 for all Mankind, Joie, J Brand, and Juicy Couture are among the 65 clothing brands on offer.

Piperlime says expanding its site was a logical move as shoppers are continuing to spend money online even during the downturn – a sentiment echoed by other retailers including Amazon and Walmart who are also expanding their clothing presence on the web.

Elsewhere in the industry, fast fashion has for years been hailed as the "next big thing." But a glance at any major clothing store in Europe or North America would suggest fast fashion has already taken over. What hasn't happened, though, is the accompanying shift in production to local factories that was so widely predicted. just-style’s special feature looks at why retailers show little sign of sourcing closer to home.


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