The Boden backlash: Middle-class favourite is accused of being smug, twee and too expensive
10:13 GMT, 23 March 2012
Boden's upmarket image has been a key factor in its rise to become one of the nation’s best-known fashion brands.
Yet that very quality is proving to be a double-edged sword, with critics accusing the label of growing ‘smug’ and ‘twee’.
Fashion insiders are predicting a slump in sales when Boden’s latest accounts are published, while the talk in online forums is of the brand being too expensive and out of touch with austerity Britain.
Too costly A cotton skirt from Boden costs 45 (left) while a crepe day dress is sold at 89 (right)
Worryingly, mutterings of discontent
have broken out on popular websites that are representative of Boden’s
customer base, including parenting site Mumsnet and the Middle Class
retailer’s founder Johnnie Boden has attained something close to cult
status in middle-class homes, with his bright patterned designs worn by
Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama.
But some shoppers complain Boden’s clothes are just too expensive in the middle of a recession.
cotton print skirt costs 45, a long-sleeved T-shirt is 29 and a crepe
day dress is sold at 89. A recent post on the Middle Class Handbook
blog says: ‘The folk at Boden are becoming worried about their label’s
connotations of smugness and tweeness.
Some shoppers complain Boden's clothes are just too expensive in the middle of a recession
Middle-class following: David Cameron shows off his Frisbee skills, and his wife's fashion sense' in some Boden shorts (left) and Boris Johnson showcases his Boden swimwear
must in part be a reaction against the renewed anxieties about
recession and the acknowledgement that most of us are going to be poorer
for quite a while.
chic means adopting an oh-well acceptance of making do and mending, not
trying to look like Sam Cam on a Cornish beach.
‘In many ways, Primark is now more
chic for the middle classes than Boden. Unless they do something
sharpish, Boden-bashing could become a bit of a sport.’
Cult status: Entrepreneur Johnnie Boden
A posting on Mumsnet read: ‘When I look at Boden ads I want to say, “Stop looking so bloody smug”.’
Another said: ‘I feel the difficult
economic situation combined with apparently lowered quality and poorer
design this season will make things hard for them.
‘The discounts they have been offering
over the last few months have had an air of desperation about them.’ One
fashion public relations expert, who did not wish to be named, said:
‘Boden’s clothes are too expensive and lacking in imagination. The brand
image is difficult to reconcile with the tough times we are living
‘Mums who once might have welcomed a catalogue in the bottom of their Ocado shopping bags no longer do.
‘It is to some extent a victim of its
own success. It is ubiquitous – especially among children in well-to-do
areas.’ Boden declined to comment, but a source said: ‘You always get
people who go on the internet and criticise.’
The last figures for Boden showed
turnover rose by 15 per cent to 232million and pre-tax profits were up
by 13 per cent to 32.5million.
■ Sales across the high street
suffered a sharper than expected fall in February, confirming that
shoppers are tightening their belts.The volume of sales fell by 0.8 per
cent compared with January as people cut back on buying new clothes and
shoes, according to the Office for National Statistics.
At the same time the value of retail sales was 0.4 per cent lower than the previous month.
City analysts said the figures suggest there is little hope for a pick-up in wider economic growth.
WHAT THE READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT BODEN
Sarah, The Beautiful North: I used to buy a lot of Mini Boden clothes for my daughter, as I liked the styling and quality. However, this has gone very much downhill in the past couple of years and I can find nicer, much better quality and vastly cheaper clothes in the high street.
Lotty, Somerset: Boden knitwear is rubbish…. No way would I be head to toe in the stuff & I also don't pay full price for it, it's just too expensive.
Fash Lad, Old Street: It was fashionable about 15 years ago… Right now 30-something women want to look more cool than twee.
Mabs, Wiltshire: Boden used to be – you get what you pay for. When they started to expand I stopped buying from them because the quality and finishing when down hill. I don't mind paying for great quality but I will never pay for a name.
Julie, Essex: I've stopped buying Boden, far too much of it is has been made in China and the quality is poor. Brora is much nicer stuff, pricey but majority is made in Britain and the quality is much better.
Susie, UK: They moved the manufacturing from UK to other countries and I believe this was an error. Also the fabrics used (and leather for bags) is now of an inferior quality.