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Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group: building strong online presence for international interest


Edinburgh Woollen Mill is a privately owned group that, as well as the Edinburgh Woollen Mill brand, owns Peacocks, Jane Norman, Ponden Home, the specialist golf clothing company ProQuip and kilt maker Hector Russell.  Altogether, the group has 670 stores and a turnover of around £600m.

EWM recently increased its investment in e-commerce and in early 2014, closed Jane Norman stores in the UK to make it (aside from department store concessions) a wholly online brand.

Richie Jones joined EWM in mid-2014 in the new role of Group Head of E-commerce and is responsible for all of EWM’s brands online.  He explains, “My role is to drive digital transformation for the group.  E-commerce is a massive opportunity for us.”

Traditionally, EWM has managed overseas sales through international franchises.  “The difference with online,” says Jones, “is that we own the entire customer journey.  That’s not quite as straightforward as rolling out international franchises.”

EWM needs to manage marketing, purchasing and payment, and deliveries and returns for each if its online international markets but how to build an international business?

Success in international e-commerce requires an understanding of local market expectations and the provision of necessary reassurance to customers who may be unfamiliar with brands.

For example, customers in Germany typically order a larger number of items and return what they don’t want, so meeting expectations on returns policy is particularly important in this market.  “It’s important to partner with key specialists who understand each market,”

To provide further assurance to customers, EWM (via its appointed courier service) offers online tracking so that customers can follow the progress of their package.

EWM chose PayPal as a payments partner for its websites, which has a “ready-made infrastructure for operating in international markets,” Jones tells Retail Gazette, “and provides ready-made credibility which is key for us when we enter new markets.”

EWM is at an early stage of its international, online strategy but is already seeing the results of an international taste for British fashion. The Jane Norman London brand is very popular in the Netherlands while Edinburgh Woollen Mill is viewed as an authoritative brand among a young, cashmere-loving segment in China.

Across the group’s three main online brands, EWM has sold to 78 countries in the past year.  10% of PayPal payments for the Edinburgh Woollen Mill brand are international, as are 7% for Jane Norman.

Looking ahead, Jones plans to increase investment in proven international markets while continuing to monitor opportunities from all countries.


Published on Thursday 14 May by Veebs Sabharwal

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