(qlmbusinessnews.com wED. 5th June, 2024) London, UK —

Jo Jenkins' Strategy to Revitalise White Stuff Amid Retail Challenges

Jo Jenkins, the 55-year-old CEO of White Stuff, is determined to capture the mature market left behind by the decline of Britain's department stores. White Stuff, originally founded by two skiing enthusiasts selling T-shirts in the Alps, has evolved into a popular brand for everyday essentials like floral tunics and utility jackets.

Jenkins, a seasoned retail executive, was recruited from Marks & Spencer in 2017 to rejuvenate the brand, which had struggled with the rise of online shopping and fashion missteps. Under her leadership, White Stuff weathered the pandemic while competitors like Joules, FatFace, and Cath Kidston faced financial troubles, returning to profitability in 2022. The brand is now a favourite among shoppers from Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, and Next, all of which feature White Stuff in their online stores.

With 114 shops and 46 concessions in the UK, 28 locations in Germany, and 575 wholesale stockists globally, White Stuff is considering further expansion. The brand plans to open up to 30 new standalone stores over the next five years and double its presence in Marks & Spencer outlets to 20. Jenkins is also keen to grow the accessories, footwear, and men's ranges.

Returning to Marks & Spencer, where Jenkins began her career, has been a full-circle moment. The collaboration with larger retailers is part of White Stuff’s strategy to reach its core demographic of fiftysomething customers, a group often overlooked by other retailers despite their continued spending on fashion.

Jenkins notes that the market is ripe for innovation as mid-lifers, now more engaged with social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, seek unique styles. She believes White Stuff’s independent approach appeals to this confident and discerning age group.

Despite a challenging period for the UK fashion industry, White Stuff has thrived by focusing on quality basics like chinos and cardigans. The brand saw a 13% increase in sales to £151 million in the year to April 2023, though pre-tax profits fell to £47,000 from £8.3 million the previous year due to rising costs. However, the group anticipates growth in full-price sales and profits, with April sales up 12% from the previous year.

Jo Jenkins

Founded in 1985 by George Treves and Sean Thomas, who initially sold T-shirts from a suitcase in upscale ski resorts, White Stuff opened its first store in Clapham, London, in 1991. The brand’s evolution included a shift to a more urban audience and an expanded womenswear line under the leadership of Sally Bailey, a former Miss Selfridge manager.

Jenkins attributes White Stuff’s success to its commitment to detail and quality. The brand's colourful dresses have seen a 25% increase in sales, and its quirky knitwear, including hot pink bobble jumpers, is also popular. Despite the tough retail environment, Jenkins feels optimistic about the future, stating, “We’re having a good time.”

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