Style Fashion

Thursday 20 June 2019

Ted Baker's failure to evolve leaves it vulnerable in bloody battle of high street

The outlook is gloomy for Ted Baker as the British chain faces ‘extremely difficult trading conditions’. Photo: Reuters
The outlook is gloomy for Ted Baker as the British chain faces ‘extremely difficult trading conditions’. Photo: Reuters
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

The retail landscape resembles a bowling alley these days; and the pins are going down in a surprising fashion.

Nowhere is it more pronounced here in Ireland than at that busy intersection at the top of Dublin's Grafton Street.

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Coast, once the backbone of midmarket occasionwear and wedding outfits, is shuttered on St Stephen's Green. Next door, the Topshop flagship store is destined to close along with five other branches in Ireland, as the Arcadia Group sorts out its many problems.

Around the corner on Grafton Street, British chain Ted Baker is the latest brand battling extremely difficult trading conditions and it's a complex commercial patchwork of consumer uncertainty, a 29pc share drop this week and then there's the scandal of an allegedly overly tactile founder Ray Kelvin.

Luxury fashion brands like LK Bennett are making their way into the business page. In March, LK Bennett, hardcore mother-of-the-bride country and a favourite of Kate Middleton's, went into administration and the collapse of Orla Kiely's lifestyle empire caused major shock waves. So what is happening to these one-time darlings of the high street?

"The customer is the key to this and certain brands have not evolved with the customer, that is the problem," says top retail consultant, Eddie Shanahan.

He rejects the notion that online competition is to blame for the current retail ills. Eddie points to the evolving nature of the sector where customers want brands to evolve, to bring newness. In short, tempt them with a point of difference.

"The way we shop has changed, the way we wear clothes has changed, the way we use our wardrobes has changed," he says. "We don't have so many of these special pieces in our wardrobes that we wear once a year anymore. Nobody does, people just wear their clothes, so versatility for their own lifestyle is a key issue in purchasing decisions.

"A lot of guys and girls now buy some nice quality pieces and they become their own stylists and curators, and that's where the change is, so they don't want tot be dressed head to toe in a brand."

"That point of difference is what's driving customers away from the high street," adds Eddie, who is founder and chairperson of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD).

The fashion world has seen the emergence of several disruptors who have shaken up the industry in recent years.

Notable in this field has been Irish designer Orlagh McCloskey who, with her business partner Henrietta Rix at Rixo London, have influenced so many female customers with their particular take on 'spliced and diced' dresses and separates in a mix-and-match of contrasting patterns and fabrics.

It is a tribute to their originality that so many brands have watched the young designers so keenly and introduced 'homages' to their aesthetic, but Orlagh and Henrietta have been savvy in business and know when to move it on.

Last year, they introduced sequins, and this year, Rixo London added swimwear, jewellery and handbags to its fashion storytelling.

Meanwhile, with so much retail bleakness and stagnating around the issue of Brexit, it was nice to report on a positive development on the fashion retail landscape yesterday.

The West Cork town of Clonakilty witnessed a welcome reverse Brexit moment when the British fashion brand, Seasalt Cornwall, opened its first fashion store outside the UK.

Pearse Street in Clonakilty was a hive of activity as the Chadwick family brand introduced its 'Cornish Riveria' look of seaside chic and an important part of their retail message is sustainability.

Irish Independent

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