Retail Remedy was invited to attend a preview of the opening of PEP&Co, a new family fashion retailer to open in 50 High Streets in the next 50 days; an aggressive opening schedule that if Adrian Mountford, CEO, had his way would have been an even more aggressive two weeks. Funnily enough the take up of that offer wasn’t widely applauded internally, although there are lots of advantages to it, not least of which launching with the same range at the same time.
As it stands the chain will be launching with the same range in each store but spread out over the 50 days. Will Kettering look as fresh as the last store to open 50 days into its life? The Trading Director Cathy Haydon, thinks it will be a challenge but one that won’t hold them back. A nice problem to have will be a shortage of stock but there is Open To Buy available before the next season ranges come in October and stock can be brought forward if needed.
The price positioning is extremely competitive, read low, with 95% of the range under £10, £1 entry price point and a maximum £25 for an overcoat or dress, To achieve these incredible prices the buy is very much built on depth rather than breadth, but with an average 4000 – 6000 sq ft, 7000 SKUs and 5000 options seems plenty.
Womenswear extends to lingerie and a couple of key outerwear pieces, footwear and a small range of handbags although at several points Haydon wistfully talked about the additional range she would like to add. It is safe to say that range selection has been more a question of what to leave out rather than what to include.
Kidswear is very well represented and capped at age 12 with a strong element of PEP&Co branded merchandise as well as very competitively priced Disney merchandise.
The mix is a good balance with Disney not overpowering what looks like a good fashion range. Like all the ranges the £1 entry price point is well featured in Baby clothing and accessories, and includes a range of consumables like dummies, bottles and nappies.
Homeware was limited to one fixture and a wall bay and was reminiscent of a Wilko’s High Street offer, that is, enough to be a token gesture but not really saying anything comprehensively. Again the prices, from £1 are very good and fit the proposition well, a mum popping in to pick up a couple of pieces and adding a little something into the basket to liven up the living room. No surprise that Haydon has an extended range in the back of her mind for a time in the future when she has more space to play with.
What’s missing? Menswear. Men aren’t part of the family at the moment, much like Matalan’s Oxford Street flagship store. The proposition is family and within the target demographics Mum is just as likely to pick up a t-shirt for her partner as for herself so this is an element that could significantly boost the offer at a later date.
Market positioning is well thought out. Low prices, actually budget prices, and family fashion which translated as low fashion on the chart Adrian presented at the briefing, but in real life was very much current fashion for the modern mother. Prices are on a par with Primark but cheaper than Matalan, and fashionability is on a par with Matalan and lower than Primark so there does seem to be a gap based on those metrics.
Location is the other metric which again stands PEP&Co apart from the competition. The business is backed by Pepkor Group, a Cape Town based investment company with global retail interests and deep pockets. When we asked Andy Bond, PEP&Co chairman, about the future potential of PEP&Co beyond the 50 planned stores, his reply was candid. They saw 350 locations to select 50 to open in. The store potential is limited to the number of locations they can distil from the units available in secondary high streets. Matalan and Primark aren’t on secondary high streets so the limit is purely based on a good site fit and investment, the later not being a concern at present.
PEP&Co could be a force to be reckoned with. In the locations they are targeting, at their price point, the competition isn’t strong, and with the right buy, they will be a feature on the fashion retail landscape.
Update: First day trading targets at Kettering were achieved within 2 hours, so that nice to have problem Haydon talked about looks like it may materialise. Congratulations PEP&Co on an excellent start.