The news that George at Asda has overtaken Marks & Spencer to become the second largest clothing retailer by volume comes as little surprise to most.
Asda attracts swarms of customers to its clothing offer on a daily basis; some seeking budget-level outlets for their fashion needs, others revelling in the convenience of finding blazers a couple of aisles down from their wholemeal bread.
“You can buy two dresses, four t-shirts or a whole school uniform for less than the price of an M&S ‘Dine in for Two’ deal”
Anusha Couttigane, Conlumino
The fact that these figures show George taking second place in volumes speaks, well, volumes. It’s Asda’s approach to pricing that has the pulling power here. At George, you can buy two dresses, four t-shirts or a whole school uniform for less than the price of an M&S ‘Dine in for Two’ deal. So, whilst you have M&S catering to a couple, George serves up a wardrobe for the whole family.
This may be an unfair comparison. After all, Marks & Spencer has a full range of fashion for all ages. That does not mean to say that it appeals to all ages. Or all purses for that matter.
A prime example of the differences can be seen in the school uniform ranges, where George’s price points consistently hover at around 25-50% of the price for the same products at M&S.
Some may argue that Marks & Spencer prioritises quality over quantity. But, when it comes to shopping for growing children, the cost-quality dilemma becomes less complicated. No matter how durable and dirt-resistant a pinafore is, it’s much less tempting to spend over a fiver if it will barely reach your six-year-old’s knees come half term. Ironically, these pocket-change prices have the capacity to incentivise customers to buy more than they actually need, boosting volumes as a result.
What’s more, George has maximised its target market by including a few more niche-sized products than some of its value-level competitors. Micro-grows for premature babies and post-surgery intimates are incredibly price-sensitive at George, ‘sensitive’ being the operative word. After suffering the indignity of being born too early or fighting life-threatening illnesses, George saves customers the vexation of paying twice the price for much-needed niche clothing solutions.
But how does George fair in terms of style? To claim that George has upped its fashion stakes would imply that it was unfashionable to begin with. That may be a matter of opinion, but many forget that the George brand gets its namesake from famed fashion designer George Davies – the man who not only initiated Asda’s fashion proposition, but also created the Per Una range at Marks & Spencer, the same fashion retailer that Asda has just leapfrogged.
However, whilst M&S is now fighting to reclaim its fashion credentials, George has progressed to forming designer partnerships with the stars of Graduate Fashion Week and Barbara Hulanicki. This approach is the stuff of high street legends: Topshop has its Kate Moss and now George has its Biba queen.
What George is rapidly revealing is that a grocer’s clothing offer can have it all: great style at great prices. And whilst we might laugh at Asda’s parking space at the Llangefni, Anglesey branch for HRH Prince George, the joke may be on us. With style credentials ranging from George Davies to Barbara Hulanicki, Asda’s clothing brand has pretensions to fashion royalty too.
- Anusha Couttigane is an analyst at Conlumino