French Connection is vacating its Regent St store, one of its biggest sites at three floors tall, on the corner of Britain’s busiest shopping street. It’s a blessing in disguise for this high street chain.
The upmarket fashion retailer has been posting disappointing results for some time now, having lost £7.9m in the first half of the year after its spring designs failed to attract customers.
French Connection has been lacking appeal among its core target audience in the face of occasion and formalwear competition from Zara, Whistles, Ted Baker and Reiss, where pricing is also more reasonable. According to opinion from Verdict Retail in 2013, customers were also reluctant to invest in the brand’s casualwear, instead preferring to trade down to Topshop or Topman.
In recent years, retailers have been forced to justify their price points through the shopping experience and quality of goods. This is where French Connection struggled, unable to validate its premium price points across its proposition.
Stores have lacked service, and ambience, when compared to the likes of Karen Millen or Reiss where sales assistants are likened to stylists and offer ‘clients’ one-on-one service. French Connection stores tend to lack imagination across visual merchandising and in turn, do not warrant flagship stores.
Because the upper mid-market retailer also trades through concessions, wholesale and online, it doesn’t need a large, costly network of stores. At the end of July it was franchised through 254 outlets so, with the closure of loss-making stores, it can re-align its attention and investment to where the customers really are today: online.
French Connection will receive £2.4m in compensation from the building’s owner, who is planning to redevelop the site.
The British retailer will also close a further seven unprofitable stores in an attempt to cut off losses altogether. Three will close in the UK, and four in the US, by the end of the financial year in January.