Marks & Spencer is to sell rival lingerie brands for the first time as part of a new initiative to boost sales on its website.
The retailer, which already accounts for just under a third of UK underwear sales, is to introduce selected items from Sloggi and Triumph – the brand behind the world’s bestselling Doreen bra – alongside eight other new clothing labels debuting on its website over the next few months.
Additional womenswear brands will include Hobbs, Joules, Phase Eight, Seasalt and White Stuff, as well as less well-known names including YAS and Sosandar. Menswear brand Jack & Jones will also be added to the roster.
James Clark of the London College of Fashion said that introducing additional lingerie brands could give M&S access to a wider range of sizes without having to hold them all in stock. The alternative brands may also help M&S attract new shoppers. “Lingerie is a very intimate part of apparel and has very high brand loyalty, as once you adopt a brand, you know the fit and shape is right, particularly in bras,” Clark said.
Marks & Spencer, which has relied on the pulling power of its own label for decades, took its first step into selling outside brands in October last year with the launch of independent eco-fashion label Nobody’s Child on its website.
Items from Ben Sherman, Russell Athletic, Original Penguin and Elle Junior as well as exclusive product from Finery and Ghost are also now on the group’s website. The company also recently bought the Jaeger brand out of administration.
M&S said the additional brands would attract new shoppers to its website and help it to expand. Nearly 10% of those who have bought Nobody’s Child had not bought womenswear from its site before.
Neil Harrison, director of brands at M&S, said the new strategy was designed to “turbocharge online growth” by offering its 22m customers something new. “We need to give customers more choice and reasons to shop at M&S,” he said.
M&S’s shift in strategy reflects similar moves at rival Next, which has signed a string of new brand partnerships in the past 18 months after gradually expanding the range of labels it sells via its website and catalogues.
Both M&S and Next considered buying Topshop and both looked at lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, before Next became its UK distributor for last year.
On Wednesday, Next announced that it had bought a 25% stake in the Reiss fashion brand for £33m. The group will now manage Reiss’s distribution systems and website with the aim of increasing sales in the UK and overseas. The deal will bring former Next executive Christos Angelides, now chief executive of Reiss, back to the firm he left in 2014.
Reiss, which operates from 183 outlets in 14 countries, had sales of £227m last year. The group’s current owners – including the Reiss family and investment firm Warburg Pincus – will all remain shareholders. Next has an option to acquire an additional 26% stake until July 2022, which would make it the controlling shareholder with 51%.