Jack Wills fails to maximise Christmas opportunity

Jack Wills, well known for its preppy style and predominant pink and navy colour palette, has reported an unexciting 1 per cent increase in like-for-like sales in December.

However, back under the control of co-founder Peter Williams after a difficult few years, the chain’s profit margin increased by 6 per cent year-on-year after discounting was reduced.

While other lifestyle brands such as Joules and Superdry have flourished over Christmas, Jack Wills has struggled to defend its place in the ever competitive market, indicating its appeal at home may be on the wane.

Despite difficult trading conditions in the UK, the retailer’s international online sales doubled year-on-year, highlighting the brand’s potential in foreign markets, particularly in Asia. Jack Wills also saw mobile sales rise 60 per cent year-on-year, in line with other retailers’ growth for mobile, ensuring further investment to improve the mobile experience is a must to reduce pain points and drive conversion.

Jack Wills’ bath and beauty category proved bountiful for the retailer, growing 44 per cent versus last year, and women’s loungewear and underwear also grew 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. The growth in these categories shows how the brand is a destination for premium gifting over the Christmas period, particularly for women. Jack Wills must now focus on further developing its menswear and grooming ranges in order to better capture the male gifting market.

While the brand has recently launched its first activewear collection, capitalising on the athleisure trend, it is late to the party and Jack Wills must encourage existing, loyal customers to buy into its activewear offer for the first time. Jack Wills’ founder, Peter Williams, and private equity firm, BlueGem, will need to focus on driving destination appeal, especially as 2017 can be expected to be challenging with muted volume growth.

Charlotte Pearce is an analyst with Verdict Retail.

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