In April of this year, at a time when Burberry posted an 11 percent increase in sales, fellow British heritage brand and trenchcoat maker Aquascutum fell into administration. A few weeks later the company was sold for a mere £15 million to a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s YGM Trading, which already owned the license to sell Aquascutum in Asia, the brand’s biggest market. But scroll back to the company’s beginnings and it’s hard to believe it all went so wrong.
In 1851, founder John Emary, a Mayfair tailor, patented a new type of water-resistant cloth and Aquascutum (Latin for ‘water shield’) was born. The company made officers’ coats during the Crimean War, outfitted soldiers of all ranks in both world wars and attracted a royal following, starting with King Edward VII. Over the years, Aquascutum has dressed the powerful (Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher) and the popular (Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Sophia Loren and Michael Caine) and operated a large flagship store on London’s Regent Street for over 100 years.
Fast forward to 1990 and the previously family-owned Aquascutum was purchased by Japanese textile and apparel maker Renown for £77 million. In 2009, Harold Tillman and Belinda Earl, the team that rescued Jaeger, bought the debt-laden company from Renown for an undisclosed price. Now, less than three years later, the brand, which some analysts say has a stronger heritage than Burberry, is facing a total collapse.
So what happened? “Unlike Burberry, Aquascutum doesn’t own the licensing in Asia,” Martin Raymond, editor-in-chief of trend agency The Future Laboratory, told The Guardian earlier this year. “That is going to cause problems for any brand because that’s where a lot of the money will come from.” But as it turns out this was just one of many problems at the company. Here’s what our data reveals.
Unbelievably, Aquascutum seems not to have tracked the performance of their products at the retailers they supplied. Indeed, our data shows that unsuccessful products were re-run in subsequent seasons, while success stories fell off the radar. For example, take Aquascutum’s £250 leather Regent Hobo bag from May 2011, which sold out in three colourways at Selfridges with no discounting and was subsequently re-stocked over the Christmas period. (…)
The above-mentioned Hunter bag, which changed price four times in a single season, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Aquascutum’s pricing woes. The brand’s most renowned product is the trenchcoat. In theory, they should have a clear, defined pricing strategy for this garment. But instead, our data reveals that their approach to pricing was completely chaotic. Take the Franca mid-length trench coat at John Lewis, which was introduced in May 2011 at £600. A few weeks later the price of the coat had dropped precipitously to £300. But by August…
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