Etam puts 8m redesign on ice

Etam, the womenswear retailer, has frozen plans to refurbish its stores and take the chain upmarket.

The troubled chain, which has 224 shops, is two-thirds of the way through an 8m refurbishment programme. But it is holding back on refitting the remaining shops until deciding how best to reposition the chain.

One City analyst says Etam is torn between its plans to move upmarket and take on retailers such as Next, or to restate its low to midmarket image, but with “more excitement”.

Etam chairman Stanley Lewis says of the chain’s poor sales: “There is no quick-fix solution. The management team is taking active steps to develop the appropriate strategies in the areas of merchandise, marketing and information systems.”

At the end of last year, the chain raised prices on key items, in the belief that customers at Next had traded down to Etam during the recession. But the move put off its core customers, and sales fell. Last week it warned it was heading for a trading loss in the first half of the financial year.

Last month Etam appointed Nick Hollingworth, former head of Burton’s successful chain Evans. Hollingworth has put the chain’s activities under review until future plans are firmed up.

It is thought the chain will introduce a blue logo to replace the traditional yellow. Etam is seeking an ad agency, and it is understood Publicis and Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO are both pitching for the business.

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