Just six months ago, JD Sports Fashion unveiled its new menswear brand in a warehouse space in East London’s Shoreditch.

Just six months ago, JD Sports Fashion unveiled its new menswear brand in a warehouse space in East London’s Shoreditch.

Open promised great value basics, was driven by an experienced team and had ambitious growth plans, so it comes as some surprise to learn that after operating for five months, JD has decided to shutter the fascia.

At the time of the launch, analysts described the brand as having design credentials close to those of Superdry, but at price points closer to those of Primark.

Managing director Stephen Galea had ambitious plans for the brand, saying at the time of launch that he hoped to open 30 stores a year and then once the concept was proven it would look to expand internationally, with a focus on Northern Europe.

Targeting 20 to 30-year-olds, Galea said the brand was launched because there were a lot of interesting things happening in own-brand womenswear, but there was a gap in the market on the men’s side.

Yet just five months after opening its first store, JD has made head office staff redundant and is deciding what it will do with the 11 Open stores it operates.

Difficult market

Menswear is a challenging market for new players to enter – men tend to be more brand-loyal that women, and will often buy a few of the same product in different colours, often online. So get it right and you’re made, but the road to success can be a long slog.

Indeed, with the recent failures of USC and Bank, it is clear that the young fashion market is a difficult place to operate in. Some industry watchers have said Open’s stores were persistently empty and products were on heavy mark-down.  

After it sold its struggling young fashion business Bank to a subsidiary of restructuring specialist Hilco two months ago, and days after its Republic fascia bought it back, JD Sports Fashion chairman Peter Cowgill said he plans to “prioritise future investment in the sports fascias”, and believed that the sale of Bank was in the best interests of the group.

Open would have been JD Sports Fashion’s best hope of creating a brand proposition that learned from Bank’s failings – a slick, clean, mono-brand value chain against Bank’s busy, multi-branded and more expensive proposition.

But the broader challenges facing the younger consumer seem to highlight exactly how competitive this market is. A study by banking group Thinkmoney last year found young people have the least disposable income, an average of £174.20 a month for 18 to 25-year-olds, some 22% below the overall UK average.

While we wait to learn the future of USC, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting year for young fashion.