I foresee failure for Tesco F&F flagship

The news last week that Tesco is looking to open a flagship clothing store for its F&F fashion range unsurprisingly brought about comparisons to Asda’s ill-fated high street venture with its George clothing brand.

Rosie Baker
Rosie Baker

Tesco’s supermarket rival tried valiantly, if rather unsuccessfully to launch a chain of stores for its George fashion range in 2003.

After 4.5 years, the Wal-Mart owned supermarket disbanded the 11-strong chain of George stores in 2008.

Although Tesco says that it has no “specific” plans to open a West End site, comments from Tesco consultant Terry Green in Retail Week say otherwise.

But why does Tesco think that its F&F range needs a West End location? What makes the supermarket think it will be successful?

Tesco’s clothing offering has gone from strength to strength since being introduced and offers decent, fashionable and value for money clothes with the added convenience of being available when you go about your weekly shop.

It appeals to busy mums and shoppers after something fashionable and inexpensive that doesn’t resemble a rice sack. Within its superstores, Tesco’s F&F brand ticks all the boxes.

However, on London’s Oxford Street or Kensington High Street where Tesco has supposedly looked at sites, it’s a different story.

Standing side by side with H&M, New Look, Primark, Topshop, River Island and Zara on Oxford Street’s highly competitive, fashion forward hub, F&F would be the odd one out. Not as cheap or cheerful as Primark, but not as fashion focused as Topshop or New Look either. In High Street Kensington, alongside Massimo Dutti, Hobbs and Reiss, the brand would be even more the outsider.

F&F is a fantastic range and brand extension for the supermarket but it pales in comparison to dedicated high street fashion retailers and the brand doesn’t have enough pull on its own.

George stores suffered at the hands of high rents in high street locations and poor volume sales rather than a poor clothing range or brand. The George brand continues to be one of the cornerstones of the Asda business and last year climbed ahead of Marks & Spencer as the UK’s biggest clothing retailer.

George was a case of the strategy failing, not the brand itself. If Tesco does go on to launch a high street flagship for F&F, I foresee it going the very same way.

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