Next is having another stab at getting branded fashion right with the launch of spin-off site Label - can it get it right this time?
Label’s launch follows its short-lived attempt to build an online branded empire with the Brand Directory website in 2008, which was pulled after just 18 months.
So why is Next giving it another shot?
Conlumino research director Maureen Hinton believes that the appetite for online branded fashion has picked up over the past couple of years, as evidenced by the success of Asos and Shop Direct’s Very, making Next’s play in the field a sensible one.
Although Next already does a brisk trade on branded goods through its own website, Hinton believes a stand-alone website could help boost sales in the category.
She says: “Next has a strong brand image. Most people go to its website to buy branded Next product. There’s a benefit to clearly defining the brands under one label rather than them getting lost [on the main Next site].”
“Creating a new site will make it more obvious that they sell brands and make sure they don’t get lost.”
Having a stand-alone site may also woo more trendy brands who may be reluctant to be associated with mainstream retailer Next.
The retailer says that Label will have a “clean, fresh & editorial style”, which could give it a more fashion-forward feel than Next and could attract a different, possibly younger, audience.
But why will it succeed where Brand Directory failed? At the time that Brand Directory was ditched, sources said that Next had failed to invest enough to promote the new site and instead relied on links on its core website. It was also claimed that Brand Directory was not sophisticated or targeted enough to woo the young shoppers that visit Asos and Very in their droves.
Although a preview of the site that launches on Thursday is currently unavailable, the fact that Next has signed model of the moment Jourdan Dunn to front Label suggests it is putting its hand in its pocket this time and is focusing on a younger audience (that knows who Dunn is).
Next will no doubt view Shop Direct’s Very as a blueprint. Very launched just a few months before Brand Directory’s demise in July 2009 and is now a £500m plus business which is growing at 20% to 30% a year.
Like Very, Label has the benefit of an established online infrastructure and can offer Next’s industry-leading fulfillment. If Next can execute the launch of Label as well as Very, it could build a big business. However, that is easier said than done.