Brand Health Check: Aquascutum
The classic clothes brand is in administration and has closed its UK factory.
Aquascutum: in administration
Aquascutum has had little trouble proving its worth on the fashion front. Its clothes have been worn by Sir Winston Churchill, Cary Grant and the Queen, while its trenchcoats are well-known around the world.
It has been a different story financially in recent times, however. After racking up losses of £24m in 2008, the brand has struggled to recapture its glory days, despite owner Harold Tillman investing £30m since he acquired the company two and a half years ago, and the appointment of talented designer Joanna Sykes in 2010.
Last month, Aquascutum announced that it was entering administration, and it has since closed its Corby factory. The brand has three stores and 16 concessions in the UK.
Critics have singled out the retailer's marketing and licensing strategies as the main reasons for its collapse. While rival Burberry has thrived by attracting a younger, trendier following and invested in digital channels, Aquascutum, which was founded in 1851, pinned its fortunes on an older demographic that has failed to deliver the necessary returns.
Unlike its competitors, Aquascutum failed to attract favourable PR with celebrities. Moreover, much of the money it generates comes from Asia but it does not own the licensing rights there, having sold them in 2009 to YGM Trading.
Aquascutum is now in talks to sell the global brand rights to YGM Trading, too, and Alan Lewis, owner of another British classic, the overcoat maker Crombie, is also rumoured to be interested. So how might the brand reinvent itself if the sale goes through?
We asked Sarah Baumann, general manager at Atelier London, the fashion, luxury and beauty division of Leo Burnett Group, which works with Westfield and Net-a-Porter, and Shaun Lattin, the former marketing director of Aquascutum, now a consultant.
AQUASCUTUM: THE FIGURES
Incurred losses of £24m in 2008
£30m has been invested in the company since 2009
Its factory was closed last month with the loss of more than 100 jobs
Sarah Baumann, General manager, Atelier London (the fashion, luxury and beauty division of Leo Burnett Group)
Another great British brand collapses, and we are reminded that a quality product does not guarantee survival. Aquascutum's latest autumn and winter collection was shown to great acclaim; its clothes are modern, beautifully tailored and favoured by many over the more obvious appeal of Burberry.
Design is not to blame here.
The sale of Asian licensing rights to YGM in 2009 has proven to be short-sighted; the Asian luxury market continues to thrive.
Aquascutum, in true British style, relied on its clothes to do the talking, and that's just not enough. Its communications were limited and limiting. When compared with Burberry's digital fashion shows, replete with holograms of models, Aquascutum's print campaigns are out-dated.
However, there is hope. The desire for heritage and craftsmanship is on the rise. LVMH, for example, is resurrecting brands from the archives. A reborn Aquascutum would be well-placed to ride these trends.
- Prepare to market the brand in key emerging luxury markets such as Brazil. This will be easy if YGM purchases Aquascutum, but not so straightforward for others.
- Redefine its brand purpose and tell the story of its quality, craftsmanship and design.
- Build the profile of Aquascutum's designer, Jo Sykes.
- Think seriously about the marketing. The will to love Aquascutum is there - the company needs to help people experience the brand.
Shaun Lattin Consultant (and former marketing director of Aquascutum)
This is sad news, as yet another quintessential British brand is lost. Aquascutum succumbed because it was out of touch.
It had an ageing customer base and failed to connect with a higher spending, younger audience. Most of its customers in its former Regent Street flagship store were Asian tourists.
On paper it had the right ingredients - British heritage, classical styling, and an upper-class image. However, few people under the age of 40 knew the brand.
It should have refocused its collections, offering more 'mix and match', instead of high-priced coats, and reworked the signature plaid into imaginative contemporary designs.
It should also have given up selling men's suits that cost £500 or more; there is no long-term business there, unless you are a designer brand. In addition it might have built a credible accessory range. Accessories have become the core profit-generator of many luxury bands.
Investment in fresh shop locations with high footfall would also have been wise. Go to where you customers are, and don't wait for them to find you.
- Identify a fresh target customer base, pursue it relentlessly, and win it over.
- Develop a focused and aspirational brand personality and use tactical marketing to promote this.
- Launch and support an exciting collection that enhances and builds the brand personality.
- Generate a 'wow' factor in the in-store shopping experience.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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