French Connection plummets, Next soars. What makes one work and the other struggle?
A 60% decline in operating profit is a disaster in anyone’s book. A 30% increase is motoring, especially in the current climate. Thus the results for French Connection and Next respectively indicate the turmoil that exists on the high street in the fashion sector. The general consensus in the industry is that French Connection, with its once controversial but seven year-old FCUK branding, is tired and dated.
Last month was unkind to most fashion retailers (it has been dubbed Armageddon August) but Next came through it with like-for-like sales up 2.1%. compared to a decline of over 9% for FCUK. The fashion business is preparing for an autumn of dramatic competition as Marks & Spencer and BHS mobilise for a style war that has more than a passing resemblance to a “grudge” contest between rivals Stuart Rose and Philip Green.
With 25% of Brighton’s city centre shops offering fashion the weather could play an even more important part than usual in retail fortunes. Operators both large and small are praying that the wet, grey summer isn’t going to be followed by a sunny, dry autumn.
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