Superdry no longer cool

Posted on Apr 16, 2024. by NTI

Once worn by celebrities like, David Beckham, Kate Winslett, Pixie Lott, Justin Bieber and Leonardo Dicaprio, Superdry have recently been criticised for not being cool enough by former chairman, Peter Williams. This comes amid news of the company entering a Restructuring Plan. On the BBC's Today programme Williams recently suggested that the move (toward a Restructuring Plan) was a reflection of a "brand that is probably not as cool as it used to be".

Superdry was founded in 2003 by co-founders Julian Dunkerton and James Holder. Renowned for its faux Japanese style hoodies and clothing, Superdry expanded at a rapid rate. In March 2010 Superdry successfully floated onto the London Stock Exchange. In 2011 it acquired French franchise and distribution partner, CNC Collections BVBA (Supergroup BVBA) and opened its flagship store on Regent Street, London. Between 2013 and 2014 Superdry bought out its partners in Spain, Germany and Scandinavia and opened its flagship store in Munich, Germany.

As part of its ambitions to become a global lifestyle brand Superdry bought out its licence partner in the US acquiring exclusive rights to distribute Superdry products in North America. By 2018 Superdry was selling to 157 countries and shares trading at around £20. However, following news that Superdry would be entering a restructuring plan and delisting from the London Stock Exchange, shares were down 28% and changing hands for as little as 5p on Tuesday.

So, went wrong? Why is Superdry not cool anymore?

I remember buying my first Superdry Polo shirt and hoodie 15 years ago. I remember feeling cool in my unique clothing with Japanese writing on it. I was convinced I was wearing clothes made by a young cool Japanese team. My wardrobe today, 15 years after buying my first Superdry apparel, is full of Superdry hoodies and polo shirts. My wife has an array of Superdry sportswear. How can they not be cool!? Does it have anything to do with Superdry being predominantly worn by middle aged people everywhere!?

Superdry’s half-year sales tumbled 23 per cent to £219.8m to the end of October 2023 but its fall from grace stems back to 2018 when a bust up led to the temporary removal of Julian Dunkerton. Industry experts claim that Superdry simply grew too fast. Some have cited changing consumer habits, unseasonal weather, the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis as contributing to fall in sales with retailers like Superdry. Others claim that Superdry is not cool anymore and outdated.

According to Alice Price, associate apparel analyst at research firm GlobalData, Superdry no longer attracts young celebrities but is more favoured by older men looking for practical clothing.  Former Superdry chairman, Williams, claims that “teenagers don’t necessarily want to shop where their parents used to shop”. That is certainly the view shared by my children who dare not wear anything with a Superdry label on it.

Dunkerton hit back at these claims by saying: "The reality is that the brand speaks to all human beings - it’s very broad church and needs to be”. Citing the success of sportswear giant Nike as an example, Dunkerton went on to say, "While you go through the ebbs and flows of brand heat – actually having a diverse customer base is key”.

Dunkerton remains positive that a restructuring plan will help turn the ailing company’s fortune around and will no doubt look to other retailers like Abercrombie and Hollister who have enjoyed a revival as a source of inspiration. Superdry hope to have the restructuring plan in place by July 2024 subject to shareholder approval. As part of the rescue plan, the retailer is seeking rent reductions on 36 stores and raise more cash through a sale of shares. Critics argue that any chance of survival depends on Superdry restyling.

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