John Lewis plans big menswear push

John Lewis Partnership had plenty of news on Monday, although upbeat developments in its menswear offer and the addition of new independent directors were rather balanced by fears that the company could report first-half losses.


John Lewis Kin


The retailer will reveal its first-half results on Thursday and there are concerns that heavy discounting by rivals Debenhams and House of Fraser will have forced it to cut prices in order to compete, seriously undermining its profit margins.

The business has faced challenges for some time, particularly in its under-pressure Home department and it had reported lower-than-hoped-for profits this time last year.

The six months to the end of July 2019 are unlikely to have been any easier, despite the resilience of its Fashion department.

But looking on the bright side and talking of fashion, the company said on Monday that AW19 “signals the evolution of menswear at John Lewis & Partners, its most significant investment in menswear to date.”

Its “redirection” is anchored by two “completely transformed own-brands - John Lewis & Partners and Kin - designed in-house, which sits alongside a renewed focus on independent and emerging brands. The final piece - a new experiential flagship experience for menswear - will arrive at John Lewis & Partners Oxford Street later in the season.”

It's certainly an interesting development, especially with its menswear offer having previously been very mainstream/middle-market. A move into a more trend-focused offer could transform menswear in the same way as it has its womenswear collections.

The John Lewis & Partners eponymous label will comprise a 280-piece collection “that takes a fresh perspective on menswear classics.” Designed in-house, the collection blends “modern design with reconsidered fits, fabrics and quality.”

The Kin offer meanwhile “this season refocuses on directional designs and high-performing fabrics” across both tailoring and casualwear.

Joining the own brand collections is the introduction of a raft of new independent brands leading with two capsule collections from British brands Folk and Albam. Folk has created a collection called It’s All Good Folk, which focuses on sustainable materials and the reissue of key pieces from the brand’s archive. Albam’s capsule, Albam Utility, reinterprets workwear staples with a focus on wearability.

This “will be underpinned by a new men’s style experience.” The centrepiece for this will be the Oxford Street flagship which will have a revamped 20,000 sq ft Menswear floor. Some 20% of this will be dedicated to services and 1,000 sq ft will be a new experiential space to “encourage customers to try something new.”

The experience will then be rolled out nationwide in 2020 and further details will be shared later in the season. 

INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS

At the same time as the launch of this big menswear initiative, it has named Dame Clare Tickell and Michael Herlihy as its first independent directors, reporting directly to the chairman, Sir Charlie Mayfield.

They’re full-time roles in addition to the firm’s three non-executive directors AND Mayfield said that the roles “are designed to provide a source of insight and challenge on the extent to which they are upholding the principles of the constitution. Free from operational responsibilities, the independent directors work on behalf of the chairman and trustees of the constitution, and will play a critical role in ensuring the integrity of the partnership.”

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