SUPERMARKET chain Sainsbury’s will be hoping to boost its fashion credentials this week with the launch of a new look for its clothing brand Tu.
The grocery giant is currently the UK’s seventh largest clothing business by volume, having taken Tu from a standing start in 2004 to record sales of £680 million last year.
In the biggest investment in its clothing business since the brand’s launch, it is promising trend-led collections created by a 30-strong in-house design team who will add new “seasonal must-have” items every six weeks.
The new look, which has been created to inspire customers to “Live Their Style”, will be rolled out to 395 stores nationwide by this autumn.
The new autumn/winter range will include leather handbags from £35, lambswool jumpers from £20 and a women’s cocoon coat for £50.
James Brown, Sainsbury’s clothing director, said the investment was part of the group’s wider corporate strategy to grow its non-food business and further diversify its revenue and profit streams.
He said: “After an outstanding performance over the past couple of years, it’s the right time for a significant investment in the brand.”
In the past three months, overall clothing sales rose by 5.2 per cent, with lingerie up 21 per cent, swimwear up 48 per cent and men’s jackets soaring by 170 per cent.
Tu, for which Gok Wan has designed clothing collections, competes with the likes of Asda’s George brand and Tesco’s F&F fashion offering. It is also threatening more established high street names such as Marks & Spencer.
Last week, Sainsbury’s turned up the heat on rivals Tesco and Morrisons with news of its first-quarter performance.
The group, which has recruited footballer David Beckham to its advertising campaign, said its like-for-like sales in the 12 weeks to 8 June rose 0.8 per cent, excluding fuel, compared with a 1 per cent fall at Tesco and a 1.8 per cent drop at Morrisons.
It marked Sainsbury’s 34th consecutive quarter of underlying sales growth under chief executive Justin King, with market share also rising 0.2 per cent to 16.8 per cent, putting it behind Asda on 17.5 per cent.
Convenience stores saw 20 per cent sales growth, while online was up 16 per cent. Despite Sainsbury’s resilient performance, it represented a slowdown from growth of 3.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of the 2012-13 financial year.
That slowdown mainly reflected an extra bank holiday last year for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
• FOOTFALL across Scotland’s retail sector during May was 3 per cent up on a year earlier, according to a report out today. That compares with a 0.7 per cent decline for the UK as a whole.
However, the Scottish Retail Consortium warned that not all of the footfall translated into pounds spent in store, as retail sales growth was pegged at just 0.8 per cent.
The milder weather was cited as one of the reasons for additional shoppers on the high street.