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Signs of The Times

Published by Sarah Abery on 21-May-2013 Industry, Fashion

According to the recently released Sunday Times Rich List, Great Britain’s most powerful players in retail seem unaffected by fears of a triple-dip recession, with many of fashion’s wealthiest names featuring in the prestigious list circulated on Sunday the 21st of April. 

At number 11, topping the chart of the UK’s most affluent retailers and following hot on the heels of the world’s richest oil barons, are Galen and George Weston, who have a combined family fortune of £6.65 billion. Between them, the Weston brothers own some of fashion’s most influential stores, ranging from the rapidly expanding discount-fashion chain Primark to the luxury institution that is Selfridges.

Second in the list of fashion’s mightiest magnates are Sir Philip Green and his wife, Lady Green, who reached number 16 with their £3.88 billion net worth. The Sunday Times also pointed out that Green has one of Britain’s fastest-growing fortunes, thanks to the expansion of Topshop’s parent Arcadia Group into foreign markets, including North America, Australia, Brazil and China. The retail giant is currently preparing to open the brand’s first branch in Hong Kong, signaling the start of its expansion into China. In a recent interview, Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive of PPR (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), stated that “the pace of China’s growth was very high” and that it is a country where “British style is quite famous”, therefore combining these merits would produce a prosperous venture. 

Perhaps surprisingly, three of the top ten retail earners named in the annual list are owners of sportswear brands such as Sports Direct, Sportsworld, JD Sports, Speedo and Adidas. With reflection, it is clear that the London 2012 Olympics were a strong driver in this sector’s growth since last year’s Rich List publication. The Sports Direct group confirmed that gross profit during the sporting event rose by 21.7 per cent to £167.4m, with the firm adding that trading since last September has remained strong.

Amongst the high street names featured in this definitive list, including Marks and Spencer, Next, River Island and Matalan, are the tycoons behind luxury brands Mulberry and Paul Smith. Despite the fact that Mulberry reported its third consecutive profit warning last month, it has enjoyed three years of rapid growth, and Christina Ong’s spectacular net worth of £700 million seems to have weathered the storm well.

Fashion brands, and the businesses behind them, are becoming increasingly aware of the changing face of consumerism due to the global spread of the Internet and the recent growth in magnitude of social media. In order to keep up with rapidly evolving consumer trends, brands must go online and connect with their customers in new and appealing ways. Many of the retailers on the Sunday Times Rich List are already endeavouring to give their clientele a modernised shopping experience. For example, Topshop connected with consumers via Google during London Fashion Week and River Island has recently been ranked 8th out of the top ten most visible fashion retailers online. The question is; can other retailers successfully follow in their footsteps?

Courtesy of Sarah Abery works in advertising and as a freelance fashion writer.

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