New Look slashes prices amid sharp fall in annual sales

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Fashion chain New Look is continuing to cut prices as it tries to turn around its business.

New Look wants 80% of its clothes to sell for less than £20.

The price cuts come amid falling sales. Like-for-like sales plunged by 11.7% in the financial year which ended in March, and website sales tumbled 19%.

New Look is one of many retailers this year that struck a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) under which a company buys time to sort out its debts.

It is trying to broaden its appeal to include older customers, giving it an age target range of between 18 and 45.

Results from New Look, which has hundreds of stores and has been a High Street presence since 1969, contrast sharply with online rival Boohoo, which also reported results.

Sales of its three brands, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal were 53% higher in the most recent quarter compared with the same quarter last year.

Boohoo brands target customers aged between 18 and 28, with clothes priced at about £15.

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Pretty Little Thing

New Look vs Boohoo

By Karen Hoggan, business reporter

What’s behind the stark contrast in the fortunes of New Look and Boohoo?

Is it just that New Look is saddled with an expensive High Street presence, while Boohoo is online only?

Actually it seems to go deeper than that. New Look’s online business had a bad year as well.

Charlotte Pearce, retail analyst at GlobalData, says New Look’s poor performance is a result of its “loss of relevance” among UK shoppers over the last couple of years.

New Look is broadly targeting the 16-44 year old shopper, while Boohoo and its other brands PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal are all much more narrowly focused on 16-24 year olds.

By trying to appeal to too many different shoppers, New Look has ended up appealing to none as “its proposition is unclear”, says Ms Peace.

She also says New Look’s product ranges “lack excitement and its product is much safer” compared with the “daring” designs of the online-only fashion retailers.

Retailers like Boohoo are “more in tune with millennials in terms of providing trend-led and boundary-pushing fast fashion,” she says.

As a result she reckons New Look would “struggle” to lure back these 16-24 [year old] shoppers because it hasn’t kept up with the likes of Boohoo.

However, Ms Pearce doesn’t think New Look should be putting effort into trying to recapture the younger shoppers who have been lured away by Boohoo and others because the competition is so “intense”.

Instead she says New Look needs to “adjust its target customer base” to focus on the older 25-34 year olds.

Clothing retailer, Ted Baker, also released profits on Tuesday. Its half-year sales were up 4%, mainly thanks to growth in its online sales.

New Look also booked a one-off cost of £34m, partly for discounting old stock.

The company said it had made “significant progress”, which will be reflected in next year’s results.

Last November it brought back Alistair McGeorge, who ran the business between 2012 and 2014.

Mr McGeorge said: “Last year was undoubtedly very difficult for New Look, with a well-documented combination of external and self-inflicted issues impacting our performance.

“We still have more work to do to restore long-term profitability, but I am confident we are now better placed to achieve this than we were when I returned to the business over six months ago.”

New Look

  • Founded 1969 with first store in Taunton, Somerset
  • 594 outlets in UK
  • 213 outlets in Europe, China and the rest of Asia
  • Bought by private investment vehicle Brait in 2015. Brait also owns a stake in Iceland and Virgin Active Gym

Under its turnaround plan, the company is cutting 1,000 jobs and closing 60 stores.

The plan will cut the fashion chain’s rents by between 15% to 55% across its remaining 393 stores.

Last month, the company hit the headlines with news it was attaching higher prices to its bigger sizes, a policy it said it would reverse.

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