Preppy British brand Jack Wills has announced a move into the Asian market as it prepares to open stores in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong before the end of this year. The fashion retailer’s push into the Far East precedes potential expansion opportunities in the Middle East where four stores are currently operated through a franchise partner.
Established in 1999 as a grown-up alternative to ‘university outfitters’, Jack Wills is well known for its quintessential Britishness with a youthful twist.
The retailer has ambitions to open its own factory to increase its UK based manufacturing. In the meantime, the company has launched an apprenticeship in Somerset to encourage traditional weaving skills and techniques. It has also sponsored a flock of sheep in Wiltshire in a bid to own the entire process of production, from the shearing of the sheep, to the spinning and weaving of the wool, right the way through to the end process.
The contemporary retailer favours direct customer engagement through events and viral, guerrilla and social media marketing. This non-advertising strategy works in the UK, where the brand knows its market, but does it translate internationally?
“British lifestyle brands are really appealing in Asia. We’re gaining a lot of momentum there” says Wendy Becker, Jack Wills’ chief executive.
“Both [the Far and Middle East] have seen rapid, profitable growth during the financial year and, with only a small number of stores currently, represent size-able opportunities to grow the Jack Wills brand” Becker explained.
The international expansion comes after a recorded 5.2% sales growth to £129.3m for the financial year ending February 2014.
In addition to adding to its store count, Jack Wills will focus on developing the omni-channel side of the business after seeing an increase in online sales. It is currently in the process of installing a new web platform and to updating its tills and point of sale capability.
The brand will also broaden its categories, offering footwear and handbags (for the first time) in its autumn 2014 range.