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The Guardian launches online fashion store

I read on Drapers that newspaper group, the Guardian News & Media, has launched an online fashion store. Guardianfashionstore.co.uk links the newspaper’s fashion editorial content and allows Guardian and Observer readers to browse over 150,000 products, featuring 2,000 brands and retailers including All Saints, Whistles, French Connection and Browns.

I decided to go on and have a look around; it might have talked me into spending £30 for an umbrella. But it’s a Lulu Guiness bird cage umbrella! Ok, I have no self control.

Anyway, I thought the idea was quite clever, when readers want to buy a product they’re linked to the retailer or brand’s website to complete the transaction, so nothing is really done through The Guardian, other than browsing. The site has been created in partnership with LynkU.com, a fashion shopping search engine which displays products for online and bricks-and-mortar retailers. It’s a good idea if it will promote independent labels and give the opportunity to new British designers to sell their work.

Rachel Dixon, life & style editor for guardian.co.uk, said: “I’m really excited about our fantastic new fashion store, which stocks fashion and beauty products from hundreds of great labels – from exclusive designers right down to familiar high street names. Now readers can buy the products recommended by our writers with the click of a mouse, or read about the latest trend and find the look in store in moments.”

Net-A-Porter head office relocates to Westfield

According to Retail Week, luxury fashion etailer Net-A-Porter is to move its head office to shopping centre Westfield London.

The retailer, which runs the online shops (and website of torture to every poor fashion student) Net-A-Porter.com and fashion outlet website theOutnet.com, will occupy a unit located above the Luxury Village.

Net-A-Porter chairman Natalie Massenet said: “We are very excited about the possibilities presented by our office move to Westfield London. It is a fitting location and a substantial space that will allow us to increase our organizational capacity and make real headway towards achieving our growth goals.”

Footfall at Westfield has exceeded expectations, pulling in 22 million shoppers; one of which was me when I visited the centre in November 2008 (it opened in October). I thought it was amazing; to those who haven’t visited I really recommend it just because it’s incredible to see the designer boutiques and high street labels together in one building. One minute you could be admiring Mui Mui, a minute later you could travel up the escalators and be in Topshop. I love it, and I genuinely believe it’s only in Britain where high street and high end would combine together.

Flannels adds fuel to Grazia promotion debate

Designer mini chain Flannels has inflamed the debate about out-of-season promotional activity after it launched a 25%-off promotion with women’s glossy Grazia, just one week after York indie Sarah Coggles ran a similar 30%-off campaign with the magazine.

Flannels, which stocks brands including Paul Smith London, Luke and Vivienne Westwood and has 11 full-price multi-brand stores in key shopping locations such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham, took part in a wider Grazia promotion this week, joining high street stores such as Warehouse and Wallis in offering readers a 25% discount between October 13-21. In addition to offering the discount in its shops, it also gave shoppers a code to use on its website.

Last week, Sarah Coggles was lambasted by rival indies for offering 30% off more than 200 brands on its website, which the indies said had damaged the sector and harmed their own sales. Several indies remained incandescent that two of the leading multi-brand indies were discounting so early in the autumn season, particularly via their websites.

According to Drapers, Grazia does not charge retailers and brands to take part in its promotions. Instead, it uses them to drive newsstand sales of its magazine, which has a weekly circulation of about 228,700 copies.

Jan Shutt, owner of Sunday Bestin Rawtenstall, Lancashire, said she could understand the temptation of taking what was effectively a free full-page ad in Grazia, but added: “Where does this all end? This might be a quick fix for some retailers but it could change the shape of retailing forever. Why would anyone buy anything from a store if it can be bought cheaper online?”

Rhona Blades, co-owner of five-store north-east indie Jules B, added: “Everybody has to think cleverly but this is just wrong. This kind of behaviour is leading the industry nowhere.”

However, the attitude of some indies to the discount strategies had softened this week. One rival to Flannels said: “It’s a minefield out there and retailers have to take a realistic view. Each retailer needs to do whatever they need to do to keep their business healthy. No multi-brand retailer would choose to discount because the margins are so small, but the mild weather just isn’t shifting stock.”

Sarah Coggles angers rivals over Grazia promotion

Found on Drapers, designer independent Sarah Coggles has angered its market rivals after launching a 30%-off promotion across its Coggles.com website in women’s glossy magazine Grazia.

Premium indies including Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, Newcastle upon Tyne-based Jules B and Emporio Clothing in Worcester, have lambasted Sarah Coggles owner Mark Bage for offering the discount on more than 200 brands – including Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Nicole Farhi – for two weeks until October 12.

The trio of indies baulked at the level of the discount, and the high-profile ad and cover line – Grazia sells about 228,700 copies a week. They claimed the promotion hit their bottom lines and reduced customer demand for new season autumn product.

Indies generally do not discount outside of the traditional Sale periods during the year, but they have seen their market share eroded by recent heavy discounting by multiple department stores.

“I was horrified to see this from a reputable retailer,” said Rhona Blades, co-owner of Jules B, which sells brands including Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Twenty8Twelve. “It’s an approach that is bad for the industry and the repercussions have been phenomenal. Sarah Coggles has offended colleagues in the industry.”

Bage defended the move and Sarah Coggles’ reputation as a retailer with a strong track record where promotional activity is concerned. “We rarely do promotions and that hasn’t changed,” said Bage. “We had to break one of our own rules and it was a one-off. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that if any other indie was in my shoes and Grazia said ‘you can go on the front cover’, they wouldn’t have turned it down.”

Paula Jauncey, owner of Emporio Clothing in Worcester, which sells Paul Smith and Joseph, said: “It was cavalier and we are furious. Customers have started bargaining with us and the designer ethos then becomes market trader.”

It is understood that a number of brands involved in the promotion asked to be withdrawn from it following calls from angry stockists.

The boss of one brand involved said: “Part of me feels ‘good on him’, and the other part understands why people are irate as it’s not ideal to set a precedent. It’s a gamble unless you’re a massive department store and you can get away with it.”

Sunday Best owner Jan Shutt added: “There is a gentlemen’s agreement when it comes to RRP. It’s good to make a stand to address this.”

Oh dear. Yes, this practise is unethical but on the plus side, discounted designer clothes anyone?