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Discount and Value Clothing Retailing in the UK
published in Issue 102, November 2002
This report analyses the growth of the UK discount and value clothing retail sector, and focuses on 11 leading players: Bewise, Cromwells Madhouse, Ethel Austin, Mackays, Matalan, Peacock Group, Primark, QS Group, The Officers Club, TK Maxx, and Uniqlo. Also, it examines the clothing activities of two supermarket chains which compete in the value market, namely Asda and Tesco.
In general, discount retailers sell branded clothing at below recommended prices while value retailers sell own label clothes at low prices. However, each has carved out its own market niche. Matalan sells a wide range of clothing from large stores in retail parks. It also offers other household goods. Ethel Austin and QS sell cheap clothing in high street outlets while Primark and Peacocks compete with variety stores such as BHS, Marks & Spencer and Littlewoods. TK Maxx sells only branded clothing at discount prices while The Officers Club is one of the UK’s few men’s wear discounters.
The expansion of discount clothing retailing in the UK has taken many by surprise. Commentators used to think that British consumers would not embrace the concept as well as those in other countries. Moreover, growth has occurred during a period of rising consumer spending rather than times of hardship. However, the success of discount retailers reflects the fact that the UK clothing market has become more polarised. Expensive chains selling branded clothing, like cut-price retailers, are doing well. The main losers are mid-market chains and the independents.
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