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Burberry, John Lewis and Farfetch: Top 11 UK stories for 2023

By Rachel Douglass


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Burberry FW23, London Fashion Week. Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

This year has been another turbulent period for the UK fashion market, yet while the cost-of-living crisis continues to grip consumer spending, the industry itself has been a dynamic one. Large-scale acquisitions, fierce competition and a crackdown on malpractice has kept big players on their toes, and has brought to question the needs and desires of the modern day customer. FashionUnited has rounded up some of the top news of the year.

Frasers gets bigger and bigger

Frasers Group may already have appeared to be one of the biggest players on the market, but if 2023 had shown anything it was that the fashion retail conglomerate had no plans to slow down. On the back of securing 15 brands from rival firm JD Sports in late 2022, the company went on to secure a stake in Boohoo Group, while also continuing to up its stakes in N Brown, AO, Currys and Asos, mirroring its ongoing strategy of snapping up struggling, rival retailers. Its biggest move, however, came just last week, when it was revealed that it was acquiring Matches in a 52 million pound deal, further cementing its mission to reposition as a premium fashion group.

Other large-scale acquisitions:

Boohoo takes on Revolution in the boardroom

While Frasers was upping its holding of Boohoo Group, the rival fashion giant had initiated a battle for power Revolution Beauty, a cosmetics brand it is now a majority shareholder of. Conflict between the duo commenced when it was revealed that the FY22 accounts of Revolution had been inflated by nine million pounds. Boohoo criticised the handling of this matter, announcing its intention to vote against Revolution’s board members and calling for a rehaul in leadership. While Revolution at first contested Boohoo’s scheme, it later gave in to the company’s requests, ultimately appointing a new CEO, CFO and chairman, each backed by Boohoo itself.

Read more about Revolution’s legal dealings:

BFC outlines new rejuvenation strategy

Skepta relaunches Mains line at LFW. Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

In June, the British Fashion Council (BFC) released details of a strategy that was to reimagine the function of the organisation and the structure of London Fashion Week (LFW). The plan, led by chairman David Pemsel, was centred around repositioning the council as a “catalyst of change” and push for “responsible growth” among the local industry. Central focuses were that of bolstering core commercial and cultural areas of fashion, driving further networking and advisory opportunities to help emerging talent and prepare businesses for legislation.

A definitive part of the “transition” strategy was also linked to the former layout of LFW. As such, the council revealed that it would no longer be holding a January edition of the fashion week, previously centred around menswear, and would instead merge men’s and women’s collections into its February edition. In order to continue supporting menswear brands, however, the BFC said it would be developing a new platform dedicated to businesses that typically stray from fashion shows, such as Savile Row designers.

Read more about LFW:

Wilko succumbs to administration

This year was also the one in which the UK had to say goodbye to a beloved high street staple. Homeware and beauty retailer Wilko shut the doors of its 400 stores after filing for administration back in August. The move came after the family-owned business failed to find funding or secure a sale amid mounting cash pressures and strained liquidity. While other retail giants began circulating its empty retail locations for their own expansion plans, Wilko’s brand, website and IP were saved by The Range in a five million pound deal, enabling the relaunch of its e-commerce business in October.

Read more about this year's UK administrations:

Authorities and retailers come together to tackle retail crime

Simultaneous to the cost-of-living crisis was also the resulting increase in shoplifting and retail theft, which was up 27 percent across 10 of the largest UK cities according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). In response, 10 of the region’s largest retailers – including John Lewis, Next and Tesco – joined together to fund a new initiative, dubbed ‘Project Pegasus’ – which would allow police to run CCTV imagery of suspected shoplifters through a national database using facial recognition technology. Efforts were further built on in a new dedicated national unit, ‘Operational Opal’, outlined by law enforcement authorities and established to further investigate shoplifting as an organised crime.

Marks & Spencer’s Marble Arch debacle continues

Marks & Spencer's Marble Arch store. Credits: Marks & Spencer

While other retailers have been keeping their wallets tightly closed, Marks & Spencer has been one of the few to be injecting its retail network with increased levels of funding, banking on physical stores to “future-proof” its business despite the growing favour of online shopping. One area of its retail network that it has put considerable effort towards is its hope to eventually redevelop its Marble Arch store, a plan that has resulted in a two-year legal battle for which a – temporary – conclusion was only outlined in July. The retailer had initially been granted permission to knock down the historic building and replace it with a modernised set up, but was faced with legal challenges from environmental groups that had brought the issue to the attention of communities secretary Michael Gove, who ultimately rejected the proposal. Marks & Spencer was later granted permission to apply for a Judicial Review, with the company stating that it believed “short-sighted” Gove had wrongly interpreted the scheme.

Read more about Marks & Spencer’s retail investments:

John Lewis’ chair steps down following stake sale suggestion

Department store rival John Lewis, on the other hand, found itself in a spot of trouble this year. In March, speculation surrounding a possible stake sale to secure capital began circulating, drawing criticism from partners and employees that have maintained majority ownership since the scheme was launched in 1950. Backlash was amplified as John Lewis’ ongoing transformation plan, led by its newly appointed CEO Nish Kankiwala, resulted in job cuts and a streamlining of its store network amid widening losses.

Responding to speculation, chair Sharon White took to LinkedIn to state that she wished for the partnership model to survive and that such a set up would continue to evolve and change shape. White later scraped by a vote of confidence by the retailer’s Partnership council, yet revealed that she would ultimately be stepping down within the next year. While at the time of the announcement White said the turnaround strategy would stay in place, various factors have continued to stand in the way of its goal of reaching 400 million profits by 2025, meaning that this mission is now not expected to be complete until 2027/28.

Sarah Burton waves goodbye to Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen SS24. Credits: Launchmetrics Spotlight.

Famed designer Sarah Burton took her final bow at Alexander McQueen’s SS24 show before departing from the helm position of the British luxury brand, where she had been for the past 26 years. In her place promptly stepped the largely unknown Sean McGirr, joining the company from JW Anderson, where he was most recently head of men’s ready-to-wear. The move sparked wide-spread criticism for the brand’s owner Kering, which had been called out for its lack of diversity amid the notable absence of female creative directors at its slew of luxury brands, despite its previous commitment to advance opportunities for both men and women.

Read more:

Farfetch’s swift downfall and rescue

Inklings of trouble brewing at Farfetch only began in August, when reports started circulating about the company’s potential departure from the beauty category in light of fierce competition. That same month, the company reported a 1.3 percent decline in revenue for the second quarter, and while CEO José Neves said that the year was positioned to be a “great” one for Farfetch, concern had quickly escalated by November, when it was revealed that the retailer was mulling the decision to go private in a bid to tackle a lacklustre share price. As a result, its previously impending deal with Richemont to acquire Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) had been thrown into doubt, with the luxury conglomerate noting that it had no plans to lend or invest in the company.

As speculation surrounding portfolio offloading, cash injections and rescue deals began to mount over the following weeks, it wasn’t long until Farfetch was ultimately snapped up in a 500 million dollar deal by South Korean multi-industry giant Coupang. With plans to refocus on providing an elevated shopping experience, particularly in the lucrative South Korean market, it appeared that Farfetch had found a cushy new home. Despite this, Richemont confirmed that its deal with the e-tailer would no longer go ahead, and that it would seek new opportunities for YNAP as a whole.

Read more about Farfetch’s future:

UK crackdown on greenwashing

Last year, UK watchdog Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) set about tackling potential ‘greenwashing’ among the region’s top fashion companies, launching investigations into various “misleading” claims surrounding sustainability credentials. Efforts by the CMA were then expanded beginning 2023, when it widened its focus to also include fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), ensuring a further number of businesses were compliant with relevant consumer protection laws. The first to publicly come under the microscope was personal care giant Unilever, which found itself in the firing line due to “vague and broad” language, among other claims.

Efforts to tackle greenwashing have also come to light in the ongoing assessment of the existing Consumer Protection Regulations by the UK parliament. It is currently being discussed as to whether a new bill – the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill – would replace such regulations, ultimately granting the CMA power to impose fines of up to 10 percent of annual global turnover, while further revising and strengthening the list of banned practices. The Bill has currently passed through the House of Commons and is currently being examined by the House of Lords.

Read more:

Burberry makes dazzling return to limelight

Daniel Lee at Burberry's FW23 show, LFW. Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

A long-awaited shift came to Burberry last year, when it was revealed that Daniel Lee would be taking over from Riccardo Tisci as the creative director of the British luxury house. A hint of Lee’s renewed vision for Burberry could be seen in an early February campaign, yet it wasn’t until London Fashion Week later in the month that onlookers could get a full rundown of what the young designer had planned. Returning to Burberry’s homeland, Lee re-adopted the quintessential British style, expanded the brand’s in-demand leather offering and rejuvenated its heritage for a wider audience. What followed was large investments into Burberry’s supply chain, a takeover initiative of international fashion cities and a series of executive hires to bolster the brand’s leadership team.

Read more on Burberry’s revamp:
Alexander McQueen
Frasers Group
John Lewis