Coggles to become an online fashion star following rescue

Clothing designer Sir Paul Smith
Clothing designer Sir Paul Smith
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FAST growing online retailer The Hut Group has plans to double or treble the size of the Coggles, the premium international fashion retailer it bought out of administration three months ago.

Coggles, which was based in York, is now purely on online business following the takeover and is home to over 200 men’s and women’s designer collections from established fashion houses, emerging designers and little known international labels.

Its designers include Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood, Diane Von Furstenberg, Barbour and Hunter.

The takeover by The Hut included all the stock and intellectual property such as the brand and the company’s domain names, but the administrators closed the shops.

The Hut’s group commercial director Steve Whitehead said the group has ambitious plans for Coggles.

“We can’t change autumn/winter 2013, but we’ve ordered the products for spring/summer 2014 so we expect more of an impact next year,” he said.

“I really see a big step up for Coggles. We’re looking to double or treble the size of the Coggles site.

“We want to enhance the Coggles brand. It’s so strong – it has won every draper’s award going.”

Mr Whitehead said Coggles fits in well with The Hut’s ethos, which is a focus on high end brands rather than very high fashion.

“We don’t sell high fashion because the return rates are too high. We sell high value items such as Paul Smith or Vivienne Westwood that a lot of people will buy more than once,” he said.

“Once people have bought a Paul Smith shirt or a pair of Ugg boots, they’re likely to buy more so we see a lot of repeat purchases. It’s about very strong lifestyle products, not brands that come and go. These brands will be here in 10 years’ time.”

He was speaking yesterday as The Hut, one of Europe’s fastest growing online lifestyle, health and beauty retailers, reported strong trading for the six months to June 30.

Revenues rose 30 per cent to £77.1m and underlying earnings shot up 73 per cent to £6.9m.

The group has agreed a £24m facility with Barclays to support the addition of further brands to the group’s own brand portfolio. Over the first half of 2013, The Hut added over 100 brands to its 15 websites including Hugo Boss, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Marc Jacobs, APC, Church’s, Ugg, John Smedley and Lindeberg – with many of these coming through the Coggles acquisi- tion.

The group now operates 15 individually branded websites including: www.Zavvi.com, www.Iwantoneofthose.com, www.ProBikeKit.com, www.Lookfantastic.com, www.BeautyExpert.co.uk, www.allsole.com, www.mybag.com, www.TheHut.com, www.ExanteDiet.com and www.Coggles.com.

Mr Whitehead said that The Hut is different to other online retailers in that it is very data driven.

“We’ve got 30 guys – the vast majority of whom are Oxbridge graduates – running algorithms to pick up consumer trends. It’s not done on instinct.

“It’s raw data and raw fact,” he said.

The Hut’s technology allows it to change the shop front of its websites depending on where people are browsing.

“Say a hair care product or a lip gloss is in Cosmo we can put it on the home page. We might give it as a gift with another purchase,” said Mr Whitehead.

“The data enables us to cross sell to other websites. We are as much a retailer as a technology and data business.”

He added that the reason that a lot of fashion businesses don’t make money is because they are paying Google, the online search engine, so much money.

“We’ve spent 10 years developing our technology programme. It’s a big cost but we avoid paying Google and we’re closer to our customers,” he said.