Woolies launches two more Australian fashion brands

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BR Country Road 6028[1]

Independent Newspapers

A Country Road outlet in Sandton. The Woolworths unit is bringing its Witchery and Mimco brands to South Africa. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Country Road, which is owned by Woolworths, will launch its Witchery and Mimco brands in South Africa next year, further tapping into the lucrative and competitive high-end fashion market.

Country Road chief operating officer David Thomas said the company and its brands, which include Trenery, serviced high-income consumers and competed with the likes of Zara, Tom Tailor and Topshop, which have recently entered the South African market.

“From a positioning perspective, we don’t compete where there is heavy competition. We are trying to give our customer the better experience, to keep them coming back, and to keep them happy.”

He said Woolworths had a first-rate offering in the competitive high-end fashion market and differentiated itself by offering “superior quality”.

The purchase of the Witchery Group boosted Country Road in the year to June. The Country Road group accounts for 18.3 percent of Woolworths Holdings’ total revenue.

Woolworths bought Country Road, which is listed in Australia, in 1998 and acquired Australian fashion brand Witchery in October last year. Sales of clothing and general merchandise climbed by 12.7 percent in the year to June.

Thomas said competition in South Africa among high-end fashion retailers was more price intensive. In Australia, Country Road was priced “a level above” competitors, putting it in a different market.

He said the company was trading well, despite low consumer confidence in Australia, because it serviced high-end consumers who were not as exposed to these conditions.

“We provide a superior value proposition compared to a lot of international competition coming into South Africa. Our relationship with Woolworths allows us to be more competitive. We certainly tap into the Woolworths food customer as well.”

Witchery’s managing director, Matt Keogh, said: “Our partnership with Woolworths will be instrumental in taking this brand to the next level in South Africa, including the opening of standalone Witchery stores.”

Country Road is described as a core lifestyle brand, Trenery as a classic, sophisticated brand, and Witchery as more high fashion and youthful.

“We have a clear position in a similar part of the market but clear differentiation in the product that we put out,” Thomas said.

Witchery first made its appearance in South Africa in 2010. Stuttafords introduced it via its store-in-a-store concept.

Another Australian brand making headway in South Africa is the Cotton On Group, which owns Cotton On, Factorie and stationery chain Typo.

Spanish fashion retailer Zara operates four stores here.

In March next year Witchery and Mimco will launch stand-alone stores at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and Hyde Park in Johannesburg. Mimco will also have a store at Sandton City and both lines will be available in selected Woolworths stores.

At the end of June, Country Road had 479 stores globally, with 18 new shops planned for the next three years.

Woolworths fell 2.12 percent to R73.80 yesterday. - Business Report

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