Asda plans hit as George chief quits

Ambitious expansion plans for Asda’s clothing range George have been hit by the departure of chairman George Davies’s second-in-command, Chris Onslow.

Onslow was appointed as George’s first marketing director only last July. He took on the role of managing director for the George Davies Partnership in January, reporting to chairman Davies. A spokesman for Asda says Onslow has left “for personal reasons”.

But analysts say the George spring collection, launched earlier this year, has suffered poor sales, with like-for-like sales falling over the past three months. The label was offered at a 15 per cent reduction early into the season. There are also reports of stock problems. Asda refuses to comment on the reports.

Insiders say there have been severe differences of opinion over the positioning of the brand – whether it should be a fashion-led label, or merely a complete clothing range that is well merchandised.

Onslow’s appointment coincided with Asda’s announcement last summer that it was to push the clothing range, building on its rapid expansion in 1996. It aims to be the number-two family clothing brand in the UK, after Marks & Spencer.

In October last year, the company announced it was to launch a 5m campaign to support the brand. Ad spend for the label was just over 300,000 in 1997, according to ACNielsen-MEAL.

Onslow joined George from Sears, where he was deputy managing director of the British Shoe Corporation. Previously he was marketing director for Adams Childrenswear.

George sales for 1996 reached 350m, and are estimated to hit 450m for the year to April 1998. Asda has set a goal of 1bn sales within three years.

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