LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPY: Why pride came before a fall for PeacocksFASHION THERAPY Why pride came before a fall for Peacocks
Picture the scene. A luxurious hotel suite, with views over parkland and the New Forest beyond. I’ve just had a free massage in the spa, and am about to go for champagne and dinner with Pearl Lowe and her pop star husband.
On my pillow nestles a new iPod Touch. In the wardrobe, a complete collection of new clothes with a note saying I am to ‘take them home’.
This was last summer. Was I being entertained by Versace, the generous Italian fashion brand, which once treated me to dinner in the family villa overlooking Lake Como Or Tod’s, who invited me to join them on board a yacht in Capri
Pearl Lowe and her daughter Daisy both designed ranges for Peacocks
Um, no. It might surprise you, given the news last week that it is about to appoint an administrator, that my host was Peacocks, the budget fashion chain.
At the time, I remember being staggered at the profligacy (I left the clothes in the wardrobe and donated the iPod to Scope in Ilfracombe) to promote a range of 40 tea dresses ‘designed’ by Pearl Lowe for a presumably fat fee.
While Peacocks’ boss, Richard Kirk, who owns 30 per cent of the company, cites servicing its debts — mostly from its expansion into 600 stand-alone stores and concessions — as the main reason for its difficulties, I can’t help thinking the brand had ideas above its station.
Yet another example of its big spending was a shoot last year for its swimwear collection, ‘designed’ by Pearl’s daughter, Daisy. The location was superstar photographer Rankin’s studio in North London.
At one point, I counted 27 people in
the room, watching Daisy pose in 20 swimsuits. Compare this to the way
online retailer Asos operates: a cost-effective line of clothes shot
using non-starry models, by photographers probably on 200 a day, not
20,000. No surprise, then, that Asos has reported a rise in sales.
Location, location: Liz says that a crucial failing is that Peacocks has no store on London's on Oxford Street
Compare, too, the five-star Limewood Hotel, which is where the Peacocks jaunt took place, to one of its actual shops. While Peacocks has several branches in London, it has no flagship store on Oxford Street, which is a crucial failing.
the brand is aimed at the under-25s, both in years and salaries, they
need an aspirational flagship store to provide kudos. The store I
visited — on Kingsland Road in Dalston, next to a betting shop — had the
usual 5 T-shirts, denim shorts and cheap, boxy polyester jackets.
Polka dots and leopard spots swam before my eyes.
The fake Uggs are 10,
as opposed to 5 in Primark. And, there, we have what heralded
doesn’t host fashion writers in swanky hotels, it doesn’t even
advertise. And it does the cheap and the cheerful and the
fashion-forward tat so much better than Peacocks — and their sales
reflect this, up 16 per cent year on year.
But Peacocks is not the only brand
that is struggling. Jaeger filed its 2010 accounts last week. Although
profits have fallen by two thirds, this is due, chairman Harold Tillman
tells me, to the fact he invested in new acquisition, Aquascutum. But he
does admit his customers, who are hugely loyal, have been struggling
themselves, and so the firm reduced prices back in November.
Daisy models a range of vintage-inspired dresses from Pearl Lowe's seventh Peacocks line
visit to the store on Regent Street last week revealed lots just did
not sell. Yet for spring, the prices are simply still too high: a pure
silk shirt has no all-important stretch and is 160. Banana Republic
does a white silk shirt, containing a small percentage of Lycra so it
doesn’t crease and fits well, for 39.50, and a lovely navy flannel
blazer for 110. That is pretty hard to beat.
The surprise is not that so many brands are failing, but that so many have survived the past three years of gloom at all.
French Connection, whose revenues have slumped by 9.5 per cent. It
seems to have lost its preppy, well-made, good-value-for-money looks and
opted for . . . sequins! I love a spring/summer body con dress, in
either silver or black, but I wonder if the typical teenage FCUK
customer will baulk at the 130 price tag, and high-tail it to New Look.
brings me to the brands I think are succeeding. To find out I have
enlisted dressipi.com, the website that gets to know its subscribers
intimately (their size, age, income, lifestyle, likes and dislikes) in
order to recommend garments they will love. Crunching all the figures
and feedback from its 50,000 shoppers, Dressipi nominates Zara, New Look
and Next as the British brands that are giving us what we want.
does a brilliant job at creating scarcity by limiting the number of
similar items in store so you feel you want to grab it,’ says Dressipi’s
Donna Kelly. Zara’s metallic blazer is my buy of the season at just 49.99. ‘New Look covers a wide range of fashionable pieces in a good range of sizes,’ says
Donna’s co-founder Sarah McVittie. The New Look twill military coat, 49.99, is my bargain of the season. Next,
too, gets the thumbs up from Dressipi for being aspirational, thanks to
its clever advertising campaign and wide appeal. Stand-outs for me are
the ginger coat, 90, and stone-pleated dress, 65.
think the decline of Peacocks tells us the British woman is tired of
tat, but still isn’t willing (or able) to shell out nearly 600 for a
coat. These days, it’s the retailers who react to trends but don’t
bombard us with rubbish who will win in the end.
at the fall of Barratts, the struggling of both Peacocks and French
Connection, as a weeding out process. Cream will always rise to the top.