George Davies’ next move
George Davies’ GIVe has had a fair amount of pre-launch press. Not only has it had a huge push in partnership with Grazia, but The Guardian, The Mail, The Telegraph and The Express have all given over column inches to the new brand which launches tomorrow. So what’s it all about? Aimed at the 30+ market, I had high expectations for something along the lines of Reiss, Whistles or COS. Fashion-forward but not overtly sexy or fierce. In fact, having had a taster, it’s nothing like those labels. It ticks the trend boxes (tweed, coccoon, red) but this is fashion for the middle-England market – the John Lewis, M & S, possibly Debenhams customer. But wait! Don’t go yet…
The backstory: George Davies is the man who launched Next in the ’80s, an aspirational mail order brand that in the beginning charged customers £3 for its hard-back catalogue, complete with real-live fabric swatches inside. It was as significant then as Net-a-Porter is now. Post-Next, Davies set up George at Asda, the first brand to bring fashion to supermarkets. Tesco and Sainsbury’s soon followed his lead. Most recently, Davies launched Per Una, a phenomenally successful brand he sold in Marks & Spencer stores (and eventually sold to M&S for £125 million. Kerching!). I confess I’ve never *got* Per Una. Unlike any other high street label, it has its own unique handwriting which involves colour, detail and shitloads of embellishment. Whatever the trends, there is always a long bias-cut skirt, a nod to the Chanel-esque tweed jacket and a lot of textile interest. It’s as far removed from understated COS as you can get.
Per Una was so successful that Davies probably thought, ‘why am I selling this through M&S, I should set up my own stores’, so he has set up GIVe. The GIVe stands for George the fourth (it’s his fourth venture), the ‘e’ stands for e-commerce and the ‘give’ is also because 5-10% of yearly profits will go to charity. As well as having its own ‘handwriting’, much like Per Una, (in fact, GIVe’s design director is Emma Trayner, Davies’ daughter who also oversaw design at Per Una), the GIVe philosophy is also about giving customers what they lack elsewhere: service. George Davies understands his customers, it’s one of his major strengths. As well as understanding that the 30-50 year old customer has a womanly shape (hence the kicky skirts) and likes being ‘fashionable’ without being fashion, Davies is flagging up customer service. Staff aren’t shop assistants but trained ‘style advisors’ and there will be on-site alterations available in all stores. The store layout is uncluttered and nicely-lit and rather than bunching all the sizes available in a particular style on one overflowing rail, there are hidden storage areas behind sliding wall panels so stock is readily available without spilling onto floors. Also, as size can be considered an issue for bigger customers, GIVe has labelled its sizes in roman numerals (I is a size 8, II is a size 10 up to VI which is an 18) to sidestep ‘the stigma of having big sizes on labels’. I’m not convinced by this – I give it six months before they revert to standard form.
Make Do Style
29 September, 2009 @ 9:44 pm
Good round up – I was meant to go!
I've given feedback already.
30 September, 2009 @ 2:32 am
It's interesting that there is so much focus on the in-store experience. I can't remember the last time anybody cared much about what we feel when we're in the shop.
1 October, 2009 @ 8:37 am
I've been looking at GIVe in Grazia and online and whilst nothing really leapt out at me, I thought some of the stuff was quite nice. (If I label something "quite nice" that's usually enough to put me off buying it!) However… I love the concept and would be tempted to check out the store next time I go to London. Does this mean I'm sliding gracefully into being a forty something? Heaven forbid!
1 October, 2009 @ 11:12 am
Yeah the sizing thing seems more confusing than anything else. There are some brands that do the 1,2,3 sizing already and I can never figure out which size I am. But the idea of being able to order your right size and have it delivered to your door is brilliant! More shops should have that.
The Frock Dress Monster
1 October, 2009 @ 7:48 pm
We've done numerous interviews with George Davies on the business fashion mag I work on, and from our (business) point of view, this gent knows what he's doing. You've got it spot on in terms of fashion (I am nearly 30 and it's more my mother's style than mine) but the touchscreens, no cluttering stock on the shop floor and customer service focus will certainly (well, at least hopefully) give the rest of the high street a shake up…