The fashion FTSE: The high street’s in crisis, but as some household names flounder, others thrive

Just like hemlines, the fortunes of fashion brands rise and fall. But with many people eschewing High Street stores for online shopping, some of our biggest retailers are in crisis. Latest casualties include L.K.Bennett, which went into administration this month, as well as Orla Kiely, which went belly-up at the end of 2018. Others, by contrast, are reporting soaring sales. So who will survive — and who’s in dire financial straits? We present the High Street Fashion FTSE index.   

The high street’s in crisis, but while some household names are buckling, others are thriving. So is your favourite label bang on trend — or heading for the sale rail?

Good Morning Britain presenter Susannah Reid wearing Next

Next – Going up    

Launched in 1982 by retailing giant George Davies. Now has 700 stores worldwide.

Famous faces: Good Morning Britain presenter Susannah Reid (right) is a fan. The Voice presenter Emma Willis recently launched a 30-piece ‘size inclusive’ collection.

Financial health: After a festive boom, with sales up 1.5 per cent, it last week reported full-year profits of £722 million, in line with predictions. However, share prices fell at the news, suggesting that investors had hoped for better.

Experts say: ‘Next is a big player,’ says retail adviser Richard Hyman. ‘You could accuse it of being predictable and bland, but the flipside is reliability and consistency.’

Bestselling item: Red off-the-shoulder dress, £36.

Forecast: With more than half its revenue from online sales, website investment is priority.

Breton-style Renee sweatshirt, £39.95

Breton-style Renee sweatshirt, £39.95

Joules – Going up

 Founded by Ian Joule in 1977, Joules started out selling clothing at horse shows. His son, Tom, launched a mail order service in 2002 and turnover soared to £50 million in seven years. Now boasts more than 100 stores.

Famous faces: Kate and Wills love the £50 wellies and £70 gilets, as does Andy Murray’s wife, Kim.

Financial health: Defying the slump with a 15 per cent rise in half -year profits up from £9.3 million to £10.7 million in January. 

Experts say: ‘Joules knows its customer, is located where that customer is likely to be concessions in John Lewis and stores in affluent market towns and gives them what they want at a fair price,’ says Lauretta Roberts, CEO of fashion hub The Industry.  

Best selling item: Breton-style Renee sweatshirt, £39.95

 Forecast: More stores and a swanky new HQ in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

Amal Clooney wears Ted Baker dress

 Amal Clooney wears Ted Baker dress

Ted Baker – Going up 

Founder Ray Kelvin started selling men’s shirts in Glasgow. Womenswear launched in 1995 and brand now has 490 stores and concessions worldwide. Kelvin stepped down this month, after accusations of inappropriately hugging employees.

Famous faces: Fans include Amal Clooney (right), Emma Stone and Myleene Klass.

Financial health: Last week its results revealed it made only £50.9 million profit for 2018, down from £68.8million in 2017.

Experts say: ‘It would be unrealistic to think Ted Baker wouldn’t be affected by Ray Kelvin’s departure, but it’s too big a business to be solely about one individual,’ says Richard Hyman.

Bestselling item: Sandra wrap coat, £329.

Forecast: Using social media to launch products.


Primark – Going up

Called ‘Penneys’ in Ireland, Primark started in Dublin in 1969. Boasts more than 360 stores worldwide, but has faced criticism over labour standards in its factories.

Famous faces: Nicknamed ‘Primani’ by devotees, the discount store collaborated with designer Henry Holland in 2018. Kate Garroway is a fan.

Financial health: Owner Associated British Foods credited Primark for its recent 1 per cent annual rise in revenue (to £15.6 billion) and 5 per cent jump in profits (to £1.4 million).

Experts say: ‘It’s extraordinary that it’s grown so big having never sold online,’ says Lauretta Roberts.

Bestselling item: Tropical print summer dress, £10.

Forecast: Focusing on ethically sourced clothing, with a range of £13 sustainable jeans.

Uniqlo – Going up  

This Japanese menswear label became a unisex brand in 1984. Opened its first UK shop in 2001, with 1,920 worldwide.

Famous faces: Has collaborated with designers including Jil Sander and Alexander Wang. Kits out tennis players Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Financial health: Founder Tadashi Yanai is worth £13.5 billion. Its parent group, Fast Company, posted international sales of £6 billion last year, up 26.6 per cent, and expects operating profits of £1.81 billion in 2019.

Experts say: ‘Uniqlo has cracked one of the key secrets of retailing: presenting the products — and prices — in a way that makes you want to buy them,’ says Richard Hyman.

Bestselling item: ‘U’ pullover sweatshirt, £24.90.

Forecast: Having replaced 90 per cent of the workers at its Tokyo warehouse with robots, the brand is spending £680 million on innovation.

Lisa Snowdon wearing Zara

Lisa Snowdon wearing Zara

Zara – Going up

Opened in Spain in 1975, Zara featured cut-price designer lookalikes. Reached London in 1998 and has 7,000 shops in 50 countries.

Famous faces: Fans include the Middletons, Sienna Miller, Lisa Snowdon (right), Alexa Chung and Maria Sharapova.

Financial health: Goes from strength to strength in the UK, with annual UK sales up 17 per cent to £704 million, while profits stand at £40.8 million, up a third from the previous 12 months.

Experts say: ‘What’s clever is that while it’s a global giant, it behaves like an agile start-up,’ says financial commentator Maggie Pagano.

‘It can get clothes into stores quicker than anyone else, and it allows managers to control ordering locally.’

Bestselling item: Snakeskin print shoes, £49.99.

Future forecast: Aiming to sell online globally by 2020.


Bella Hadid, fan of Topshop

Bella Hadid, fan of Topshop

Topshop – Going down

Started as the ‘youth’ branch of department store Peter Robinson in 1964. Now has more than 320 shops in the UK.

Famous faces: Kate Moss has designed collections, while Beyonce signed a deal in 2014. Fans include model Bella Hadid (right).

Financial health: Sexual misconduct allegations surrounding Philip Green, chairman of owner Arcadia, damaged his empire, with a loss of £10.9 million last year.

Experts say: ‘The jewel in Arcadia’s crown has lost its shine as competitors such as Boohoo have drawn away shoppers,’ says Emily Salter, of Global Data.

Bestselling item: Satin bias midi skirt, £35.

Forecast: Social media drive to win back millennials.


Taylor Swift wearing French Connection

Taylor Swift wearing French Connection

French Connection – Going down

 Founded by CEO Stephen Marks in 1972, it has more than 130 stores across Europe.

Famous faces: Shoppers include Poppy Delevingne, Taylor Swift (right) and Kate Middleton, who wore its £57 blouse for her 2013 portrait.

Financial health: While recent results showed a small profit (£100,000), its operating loss has tripled in 12 months to £9.3 million, and in-store sales have plunged by 10.6 per cent to £58.4 million. Last year there were suggestions it might be put up for sale.

Experts say: ‘It’s one of those brands that has become too big and unfocused,’ says Richard Hyman.

Bestselling item: Baani fringe-embellished jumpsuit, £110.

Forecast: A foray into bridalwear, with wedding dresses starting at £225. Talks with potential buyers are ongoing.


Jigsaw – Holding steady

A trip to Turkey inspired John Robinson to set up Jigsaw with friend Malcolm Webster in 1972. Now has 80 UK stores and 50 concessions.

Famous faces: The Duchess of Cambridge worked as an assistant accessories buyer for the chain in 2007 and continues to wear its classic separates.

Financial health: Parent company Robinson Webster recently reported a pre-tax loss of £783,000, although sales of clothing and accessories rose 9.5 per cent to £103.7million. Last year, the company restructured and ditched its CEO.

Experts say: ‘It’s suffered from changes at the top,’ says Lauretta Roberts. ‘The quality is lovely and it’s fairly priced, but it lacks excitement.’

Bestselling item: Whimsical Leaves ruched hem dress, £150.

Forecast: A partnership with Australian restaurant group Antipodea saw it open its first café in London this month, with more planned.

Holly Willoughby wearing must-have denim boiler suit, £55

Holly Willoughby wearing must-have denim boiler suit, £55

M&S – Holding steady  

Founded as a Leedsmarket stall in 1884, it now has 1,500 global stores.

Famous faces: A-list tie-ups include Alexa Chung and Holly Willoughby (right) .

Meghan Markle has a soft spot for M&S.

Financial health: Despite viral products (such as the 2016 tan suede skirt), recent revenues were down 3.1 per cent to £4.96 billion.

Restructuring means 100 stores will close by 2022.

Experts say: ‘Its collaboration with Holly Willoughby has been a positive step but she alone cannot revive it,’ says analyst Emily Salter.

Bestselling item: Holly Willoughby’s must-have denim boiler suit, £55 (left). 

Forecast: There are plans to move a third of sales online.


Monsoon – Holding steady

Launched in London in 1973, there are now 1,400 shops in more than 70 countries. Famous faces: Models include Jodie Kidd and Yasmin Le Bon. 

Financial health: After a dismal 2 0 1 7 , sales at Monsoon’s parent company, Drillgreat, remained flat at £424 million; 140 stores closed.

Experts say: ‘The range suffers from not knowing who it is making clothes for ageing rock hippies or new-age youngsters?’ says Maggie Pagano. 

Best selling item: Aster shirt dress, £ 65, worn by Lorraine Kelly.

Forecast: Plans to focus on shopping centres , railway stations and airports.

L.K.Bennett – Going down

Founded by Linda Bennett in London in 1990. She sold a 70 per cent stake in 2008 and bought it back for £3 million in 2017. Has 130 global stores.

Famous faces: Royals Kate and Camilla are both fans, as is Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins and its shoes have adorned the feet of Prime Minister Theresa May and Angelina Jolie.

Financial health: Crashed into administration this month after a £5.9 million operating loss.

Experts say: ‘This doesn’t surprise me at all,’ says Maggie. ‘The chain lost its heart many years ago, producing expensive, frumpy and unexciting clothes.’

Bestselling item: Montague bow print silk tea dress, £295, in yellow.

Forecast: Uncertain. Discounts of more than 50 per cent currently online.