Next Plc - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British fashion company

Established: May 1981 by George Davies in conjunction with J. Hepworth & Son. Company History: First womenswear chain opened, 1982; first dual Next/Hepworth store in Reading, Berkshire, 1984; Next for Men launched, 1984; first Next mini department store, Edinburgh, 1984; home furnishings range, Next Interior store, Regent Street, London, 1985; name change to Next plc, 1986; launched Next Cosmetics, 1986; merged with Grattans mail order company, 1986; womenswear divided into Next Too and Next Collection, 1986; lingerie introduced, 1986; boys-and girlswear launched, 1987; Next Directory mail order and Next Originals, 1988; jewelry stores opened, 1988; Department X stores in London and Glasgow, 1988; David Jones appointed CEO, 1988; retail and mail order merged, 1993; first U.S. Next store, Boston, 1993; joint venture with Bath & Body Works, 1994-96; opened Paris store, 1995; signed licensing deal with Shekem for three stores in Israel, 1996; sold seven company stores, 1998; sold credit-card unit, 2001. Exhibitions: All Dressed Up: British Fashion in the 1980s, British Council Touring Exhibition, 1990. Company Address: Next plc, Desford Road, Enderby, Leicester LE9 5AT, England. Company Website: www.next.co.uk .

Publications

On NEXT PLC:

Books

Davies, George, What Next?, London, 1989.

Huygen, Frédérique, British Design: Image & Identity, London, 1989.

Wilson, Elizabeth, and Lou Taylor, Through the Looking Glass: A History of Dress from 1860 to the Present Day, London, 1989.

Articles

"The Rise and Fall of Next," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 14 December 1990.

Gilchrist, Susan, "Next Fights Recession with 88% Profits Rise," in the Times (London), 30 March 1994.

"Buying British Pays Off for Fashion Firm," in the Daily Mirror (London), 30 March 1994.

Bethell, James, "Next Goes Streets Ahead of Its Rivals," in the Sunday Times (London), 3 April 1994.

Reed, Paula, "Good Value Ousts Designer Gloss," in the Sunday Times, 3 April 1994.

"Next (Company Profile)," in Retail Business: Retail Trade Reviews, September 1995.

Fallon, James, "Next Has a Knack for Hits," in WWD, 28 September 1995.

"Next to Shut Five U.S. Stores," in WWD, 26 June 1998.

"Performance of Next," in Investors Chronicle, 23 October 1998.

"Next Trading Update," in UK Retail Report, May 2000.

Fallon, James, et al, "British Retail Stocks Get Hammered," in WWD, 12 January 2001.

"Next Homes in on Bigger Stores," in In-Store Marketing, October 2001.

***

The brainchild of retail entrepreneur George Davies, the initial success of the British chain of Next shops during the 1980s is credited with having prompted greater awareness of the importance of good design in both clothing and fashion retailing on the High Street by traveling around the country to check out the existing competition. It is interesting to note that the two concepts he most admired were the upmarket German brand, Mondi, and the Italian company, Benetton. Elsewhere he found a lack of inspiration with what he described as the "buy it all approach to stock…in the hope that something would sell."

Davies' vision of what the High Street required was firstly, a strong store identity and, secondly, a high level of quality control over the garments, from raw materials to finished product. Davies believed the tailored jacket was the garment that could establish Next, so long as it represented high quality and fantastic value for the price. The first seven Next shops opened in February 1982 and the sales were twoand-a-half times what the company had originally estimated. Davies' philosophy of providing what he called "affordable collectables" found a ready market for his merchandise, which represented good design at reasonable prices.

Next offered the "power suit" at an accessible price when it was desired by female customers. Authors Elizabeth Wilson and Lou Taylor, writing in Through the Looking Glass: A History of Dress from 1860 to the Present Day (London, 1989), maintained that during the 1980s, Next brought together "…a fantasy of old-time shopping and 'aspirational buying'—the desire of newly affluent members of the 25 to 35 age group to wear an approximation of designer clothes."

Textile expert Brenda Azario believed Next's success was because, "Quality is what a customer expects or desires at any price point; this expectation has to be met. Next came in very strongly in this aspect, giving the public a better product. It wasn't a particularly expensive one but it was better—the designing was better and it was certainly better presented to the customer." There followed Next for Men, Next shoes, Next Interior (home furnishings), Next Two, Next Collection, lingerie, Next Boys & Girls, and Next Directory.

Next Directory represented what was perhaps the most significant achievement as it was the first company to try to raise the rather downmarket image of the mail order business. The catalogue itself was a beautifully-produced book with a matte black cover, featuring well-recognized faces from the modeling world, captured by established photographers in great locations. The early numbers even included fabric swatches of certain garments, all of which contributed to the widespread media coverage attracted by the Directory's launch, which revolutionized home shopping in January 1988.

The story of Next during the latter years of the 1980s to the early 1990s is renowned—a victim of over-zealous expansion paired with the recession that hit Britain during this period. Another factor contributing to the firm's demise was the failure of Next Directory to achieve the success predicted by Davies who invested £24.1 million into its launch. The fall of Next was as dramatic as its meteoric rise—a profit warning came in December 1988 and within two weeks there followed the unceremonious sacking of George Davies.

A dramatic restructuring ensued under the guidance of the newly-appointed CEO, David Jones. A large number of stores were sold off and the company raised cash by selling off its Grattan mail-order business. These measures, however, were not enough to fuel the relatively rapid rise of Next to its astounding profits, which doubled from 1992 to 1993. Improved customer service, new clothes displays, and larger fitting rooms were not enough to entice the customer to buy; the clothes themselves effected the turnaround. Next succeeded in recapturing the British customer of the 1990s, and by 1994 there were over 300 Next-owned stores across Britain and nearly half a million Next Directory customers.

According to journalist Paula Reed of the Sunday Times (3 April 1994), at Next clients received "basic, honest merchandise without pretension to status or glamour. What makes Next sexy these days is not a glossy image but a quick response to catwalk trends and a canny anticipation of what is next in style." A year later, Jones concurred in Women's Wear Daily (28 September 1995), "We have never been a fashion business. We sell good taste, good design and good quality." Near the end of the decade, however, Next faltered once again, having gone too trendy and neglecting its classics base. Sales in its stores as well as its mail-order business suffered declined, and the firm sold seven (five in the U.S., one each in Paris and Brussels) underperforming company-owned stores in 1998.

The new century brought a rollercoaster ride for British retailers; first a brief resurgence early on, then another decline with disappointing holiday sales in 2000. In 2001 Next sold its consumer credit business, about the same time the company's former CEO, George Davies, joined competitor Marks & Spencer to turnaround its womenswear division. Next garnered a turn of its own, however, with climbing sales for the Directory as well as its retail outlets. In the boardroom, Jones moved up to chairman, while Simon Wolfson assumed the duties of chief executive. By the end of 2001, Next was expansion-minded once more, closing smaller shops in favor of larger stores able to carry both clothing and its growing home furnishings collection.

—Catherine Woram;

updated by Sydonie Benét

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