Clarks chairman and former Principles owner Peter Davies plans to bring a new retailer to the high street to fill the gap left by fashion chain Principles’ collapse in March.
The as yet unnamed fashion brand will be led by former Principles brand director Liz Houghton, who worked with Davies when he was chief executive of former Principles parent group Rubicon. The venture is expected to be a mid- to upper- end womenswear concept, available via stores and department store concessions. Davies is already thought to be eyeing potential locations.
Davies confirmed his involvement in the venture. He told Retail Week: “Liz is leading this. She was the key driver behind Principles’ success and we hope she can do it again.”
Davies tabled a bid to buy Principles from its administrator following the collapse of then owner Mosaic Group. His attempt was thwarted and Davies was left frustrated at not being given enough time to put his bid together. The stock and temporary brand licence was sold to Debenhams but the majority of the 90 shops closed, resulting in the loss of 2,500 jobs and supplier uproar.
Sources said Davies had done a great deal of ground work to save Principles and had even approached Mosaic before it was placed into administration. He is said to have very good relationships with suppliers. Other former Rubicon directors including former operations director Richard Sims are also understood to be backing the venture.
The new business will be operating in a difficult sector. Sales in the over-35s womenswear market shrank 5 per cent in the 24 weeks to April 26 against the same period last year, according to TNS Worldpanel Fashion.
However, Verdict analyst Maureen Hinton said that if it is executed well, the business could be successful. “There is a market for work- and daywear that is for grown-ups and is affordable.” She warned that the team would need to avoid making it a “me too” operation. “Principles was a good business but times have changed and it will need a real edge to make it successful.”