Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trenchcoat Warfare in West End; Burberry Is the Raining Champion as Aquascutum Falls into the Red

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trenchcoat Warfare in West End; Burberry Is the Raining Champion as Aquascutum Falls into the Red

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Prynn Consumer Business Editor

TRENCHCOAT warfare has broken out in Regent Street.

World-famous coatmakers Burberry and Aquascutum are fighting for every pound in the toughest trading for decades -and praying for more rain.

But while Burberry's sales and market share continue to grow, Aquascutum has fallen deep into the red, and may be about to be sold to the Chinese.

Latest accounts show Aquascutum's revenues fell four per cent in a year, and its losses trebled from [pounds sterling]7.2 million to [pounds sterling]22.8 million, the third year in a row it has failed to make a profit.

The firm has warned it is facing "major uncertainty" and will not break even until the end of next year at the earliest. Its finances are so tight it has downgraded its catwalk show at September's London Fashion Week to a cheaper "presentation" of latest ranges.

The financial figures, which have come in eight months overdue, also reveal Aquascutum was hit by the closure of "a number of inappropriate accounts". The firm has been forced to write down the value of its assets by almost [pounds sterling]5 million.

However, earlier this month Burberry reported a 28 per cent rise in retail revenue from [pounds sterling]115 million to [pounds sterling]148 million in the first quarter of its financial year.

Retail experts say Burberry is winning because it is seen as more fashionable and better value.

Retail Week's Lisa Berwin said: "A Burberry suit is seen as a classic but Aquascutum doesn't have the same impact and is very, very expensive for what it is." While an Aquascutum trenchcoat could cost [pounds sterling]1,350, Burberry's were priced from [pounds sterling]600 to [pounds sterling]800, she added.

Design expert Stephen Bayley argued that Aquascutum -which uses "Understated British Elegance" as its slogan -was stuck with too much "heritage" baggage. "Like Aquascutum, Burberry was once dangerously dependent on a single product. Like Aquascutum, Burberry was a ghost brand, a zombie: a bit alive, but mostly dead. But Burberry received a transforming injection of creativity. First it was saved, then reinvented." Five years ago Burberry was struggling to throw off its "chav" image, which the firm admitted was hurting sales in London. …

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