Being Neither Fish nor Fowl, New Look Ain't Made to Float

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Goodway

ON THE rare occasions I allow my teenage daughters to drag me (or, more accurately, my credit card), down Oxford Street we have a set formula. Start at the west end of the road at Primark as it opens. Allow them 30 minutes to stuff their baskets, pick up the tab and start wandering eastwards.

Monsoon, French Connection, Accessorize, HMV, Topshop, H&M and Body Shop all warrant a quick browse. Selfridges is thankfully closed at that hour and Hollister and Abercombie & Fitch are for their Mum's credit card not mine.

But the store which least regularly attracts their attention is the strange New Look diagonally opposite Primark. It's on the first floor, dark and -- apart, once, from a pair of very cheap and tacky shoes -- has never succeeded in getting my daughters' custom.

Now that may not be a very scientific approach to deciding whether or not to buy shares in New Look's upcoming [pounds sterling]1.7 billion flotation. But it's a damn good place to start.

My simplified analysis of the female teenage fashion market is that New Look is neither fish nor fowl. It's not cheap enough to be Primark but it's not enough of a label to warrant its higher prices. If anyone has that middle part of the market right it is much more likely to be Philip Green's Topshop which has always put more effort into fast fashion.

Would I want to invest in retail per se at the moment? Probably not. All the data suggest that the High Street had a mini-boom before Christmas but as the snow fell in January it juddered to a stop. …