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Jack Wills offshoot to expand shopper base

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Multichannel lifestyle retailer Jack Wills is to launch a sister fascia in the UK to tap into an older customer base.

The new fascia, called Aubin & Wills, will debut in September and is aimed at the post-graduate market. It will open initially in Wimbledon, Edinburgh and Brighton, with an Exeter store to follow later in the year.

The retailer has created a holding web site for Aubin & Wills, from which the full range will be available to buy from September.

Jack Wills, which targets wealthy university students with its polo shirts and preppy fashion, has amassed a strong following and counts celebrities including Princes William and Harry among its fan base.

The retailer, which has been likened to US brand Abercrombie & Fitch, has a multichannel operation in the UK, including 25 shops and a web site, and also runs an online operation in the US.

Retail Knowledge Bank senior partner Robert Clark said the launch of Aubin & Wills is a good idea in principle given the retailer’s restricted consumer base, but warned that it is a difficult time to be launching a new business.

“In this particular market consumers are reluctant to spend money even if they do like the format,” said Clark. “With smaller companies there is always the danger of spreading too thinly.”

Last year, private equity firm Inflexion took a small stake in the retailer to help growth. It wants to expand into Japan and the US and is believed to be on the hunt for a location for its first US store, to open next year.

Jack Wills was founded in Salcombe in 1999 by Peter Williams, who named the chain after his grandfather. It is among a growing sector of fashion and lifestyle retailers, including Crew Clothing and Joules, that are strengthening their presence on the high street.

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