La Senza owner Alshaya failed to differentiate the brand meaning it failed to find an audience in a crowded lingerie marketplace.
It’s unfortunate but no surprise that La Senza has fallen by the wayside, not because of its owner Middle East franchise giant Alshaya’s inexperience in the UK, but because it failed to modernise a business that it bought out just over two years ago.
“They didn’t do enough work to differentiate La Senza in a crowded marketplace at a time where clothing retailers have upped their game,” says Verdict senior analyst Honor Westnedge.
The lingerie market is a “very competitive” market space dominated by department stores and clothing retailers. Where La Senza sits, at the younger, value end of the market, is an area that clothing retailers have made great strides in over the past few years.
“The customer base is increasingly going to Primark, New Look and H&M for lingerie. The value clothing players have been growing their range in depth and volume,” says Westnedge. “La Senza should have found a gap in the market and targeted a slightly older customer.”
Westnedge believes that La Senza should have also emphasised its quality to justify its higher price points than value players. Even Marks & Spencer, the market leader in lingerie, has tried to “premiumise” its range, according to Westnedge, to get customers to trade up with extra detail and improved quality.
Although general clothing retailers are controlling the market, Westnedge believes there is still room for specialists in the area but they need to be clearly differentiated. She points out that high-end specialists such as Figleaves and Bravissimo have found a niche and thrived whilst La Senza floundered in the mass market.
To make things more difficult, it has pretender to the throne Boux Avenue, set up by former La Senza owner Theo Paphitis, to contend with. Boux Avenue targets a similar audience and has over the past three years opened over 20 gleaming new stores. It has left La Senza stores looking somewhat dated. “La Senza stores lack a destination appeal,” says Westnedge.
La Senza serves as a cautionary tale that a retailer cannot trade on a brand name alone, it needs a defined positioning and to give customers a reason to shop with it.