It is now two years since plus-size retailer High & Mighty came under the ownership of home shopping specialist N Brown Group, and the business is benefiting from this association with its well-respected parent company in a number of different ways.
N Brown’s expertise in the online retail sector, as well as its healthy financial position, have allowed High & Mighty to develop as an organisation and undertake an ambitious growth strategy that caters for a growing UK market.
Gill Politis, who joined High & Mighty as Managing Director (MD) in September 2010, told Retail Gazette that the transformation of the specialist clothing firm, which sells products for large, tall and sporty men, has been underway ever since the takeover was completed in 2009.
“A lot of investment has been put into High & Mighty, especially in the last 12 months, and by November all but two of our 19 stores will have been revamped and kitted out in the new corporate look,” the former Head of Buying at Shop Direct Group explained.
“We’ve been focusing on quality and have appealed to a younger demographic, but have also brought a larger value element to the range.”
It is clear that retailers today need to operate across various channels if they are to be successful, and N Brown’s presence has certainly helped advance the High & Mighty brand in terms of technological capabilities, with innovations being shared between brands.
Politis is hopeful that the start of 2012 will see the launch of a click & collect service at her company, which will give its customers the opportunity to order a product, try it on in store and then take it away if they are satisfied.
Such a service will ultimately be extended to mobile shoppers, with the MD revealing that the business is “pushing hard” to establish m-commerce capabilities within the next couple of years.
The option of trying goods on before committing to a purchase is particularly useful for High & Mighty’s customer demographic, who may have been put off by sizing irregularities over the internet in the past.
“A problem with a number of retailers is the inconsistencies with sizing online, which is a particular drawback for the plus-size market as they become unconfident about purchasing goods online,” Politis stated.
In line with giving shoppers what they want, online customer reviews will also soon appear on the firm’s website, as it is “crucial” for premium retailers to allow customers to share their experiences, according to Politis, and this platform should help provide the transparency every successful business requires.
Parent company N Brown, which also owns online lingerie firm Figleaves.com and womenswear retailer Simply Be, last month posted pre-tax profits of £44.8 million for the first half of its financial year, and High & Mighty has played a strong role in the organisation’s recent progress.
Although figures from the group’s separate businesses are not made publically available, Politis says that High & Mighty has experienced double digit growth in sales this year so far, with online trading up on 2010 as well.
“There is even double digit growth on like-for-like sales, which for this day and age in the retail sector is an outstanding performance.”
Strong trading levels have come despite High & Mighty favouring sites on secondary locations, which recent Local Data Company research suggests have been particularly hard hit by consumers focusing on shopping out of town and in primary high streets.
“We’re very comfortable not being in the primary high streets as we don’t have to pay the huge rates that the big operators pay because we can trade very healthily where we do,” Politis argues.
“I believe there is a move back to renewing and revamping central shopping areas because it is more about the social experience, rather than just the functional process of buying an item and then going home.
“The retailers on the high street who don’t adapt to what customers are telling them will be the ones who fall by the wayside.”
Under the ownership of N Brown, which has more than 140 years of history in the retail market and caters for shoppers in numerous channels, High & Mighty is unlikely to be allowed to lose touch with its customers’ requirements.
Politis also suggests that there is the possibility of High & Mighty operating from the same units as its sister firm Simply Be in the future, as a way to get the group working together even more. “Anything is possible – retail is very fluid,” she remarked.
Indeed, this particular retail boss is confident that the idea of collaboration – whether it is landlords reducing rents or the successful retailers re-employing industry staff who have lost their jobs due to store closures – is essential for the sector to thrive.
“I think we sometimes talk ourselves into an early grave in retail – it’s not all doom and gloom.
“We all need to support each other to get this industry back to where it should be.”