Economy

Cotton On snaps up fast-fashion brand Supré amid influx of overseas retailers

Melinda Oliver /

Australian retail powerhouse Cotton On Group has taken ownership of fast-fashion chain Supré, which operates 157 stores nationally, for an undisclosed sum.

The announcement comes as Japanese retail icon Uniqlo has firmed up its plans to open Australian stores in early 2014, while Swedish fashion giant H&M has already locked in Melbourne’s GPO building as its first Australian location.

Cotton On Group chief executive Peter Johnson told SmartCompany that the two businesses were “culturally and historically” aligned.

Johnson says Cotton On Group intends to boost Supré’s position in the market, as well as its store footprint and online operations. He says the group’s supply chain, store design abilities, staff training and logistical operations will go towards developing Supré.

Cotton On Group communications manager Greer McCracken told SmartCompany it was too early to comment on how Supré operations will be integrated into the group.

“Our focus is to maximise the opportunities the Supré brand has in the lead up to Christmas with no change to business operations during this time,” she says. “We’ll be focused on rolling up our sleeves and getting on with the job as Christmas approaches.”

When asked if the deal would place Cotton On Group in a stronger position to compete with the influx of international retailers, including Topshop, Zara, Uniqlo and H&M, McCracken says the company will remain focused on its own operations.

“We are very focused on doing what we do best, which is offering value fashion with a wide range of products for different age groups,” she says.

Supré founder Hans van der Meulen said in a statement that the sale would see the Supré brand expand to Asia and South African markets.

Retail Oasis retail expert Nerida Jenkins told SmartCompany this morning the move was “fantastic” for Supré as the brand can take advantage of Cotton On Group’s strength in supply chain operations, branding and development.

Jenkins says Supré may have been more “vulnerable” to the influx of international competition, but the new ownership will give Supré and Cotton On market strength.

“With the big international brands coming in, I believe they have identified their need to bolster their position and stronghold in the market,” she says.

Jenkins says Supré had a strong position in the youth fast-fashion market earlier in the decade, and consumers should expect to see a “refreshed, sharper, leaner Supré business”.

Supré was launched in the 80s by Hans and Helen van der Meulen, and is pitched at trend-aware young women. It operates 157 stores. Nightwear and party wear are two aspects which it offers that will diversify Cotton On Group’s portfolio.

Cotton On Group was founded in 1991 in Geelong, Victoria, and now has almost 1200 stores and 17,000 staff in Australia and internationally. It operates a number of value-focused fashion brands, including Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Cotton On Kids, Rubi, Factorie, T-Bar and stationary store Typo.

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