Competition and crisis to test brand managers

Brand managers working for British labels may have to go back to the drawing board if their clients are to outshine an unprecedented influx of foreign invaders.

Not perturbed by the nation’s faltering economy, international retailers are about to vie for stand-out on our major high streets, just as the battle for consumer spending intensifies.

Following the pioneering footsteps of Ikea and Zara from Europe, the West End’s newest additions are the US fashionistas Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Seeming to notice that its brand is now more endearing to cash-conscious Britons, Ferrari is also about to open a two-tier store occupying 500sq metres on Regent Street

The luxury car marker will open up alongside the 31 stores already being run by international retailers, including Godiva, Hugo Boss, Talbots and Benetton.

While these brands have already capitalised on the £3bn tourists in the West End spend in shops each year, both them and their less established peers are eyeing start-up further out.

US-style malls like Brent Cross and Virginia Water are increasingly targeted, as are retail parks in Bristol and Liverpool, home to a growing collection of European labels.

The pull factor of these and other retail hotspots appears to be that, despite the spending slowdown, sales densities reportedly remain higher in Britain than in the US or Europe.

Moreover, the credit crunch has cemented a slump in commercial property rates by a reported 25% in the past six months, according to figures recently cited by The Times.

This partly explains how retailers from Spain, Italy Scandinavia and Eastern Europe have been able to gain a foothold into the UK high street, such as Westfield White City.

But like competition, crisis is another imminent challenge facing financial brand managers: FTSE-listed financers are accused of not using their websites effectively enough during the credit crunch.

Investis, the leading corporate website designer, says some of the most established bank brands use “upbeat marketing messages” in lieu of up-to-date details about the turmoil and its impact on their stakeholders.

“The financial crisis has exposed a lack of planning around online crisis communications in the banking sector,” Al Loehnis, a director of the firm told FreelanceUK.

“All companies should have some form of special situation website waiting in the wings for events like this that can be signposted prominently from the homepage.

“It allows [them] to give proper weight to major events and most importantly, it lets [them] take the communications out of the context of a marketing-led website.”

 

21st October 2008

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