There is growing uncertainty over the future of Australian retail chain Diva, with reports emerging that the business is in the process of switching at least some of its stores to sister-brand Lovisa.
At the same time, the Jeweller Magazine reports numerous Diva stores have recently closed, including a prominent store in Westfield Parramatta in Sydney.
Staff at two Diva stores in Melbourne contacted by SmartCompany this morning said the brand is in the process of switching to the Lovisa name, although one store manager said her store won’t be changing. The same manager confirmed the Diva website has ceased operating.
Another Melbourne store contacted by SmartCompany had switched to the Lovisa brand around 12 months ago. The phone number listed for the Diva store in Rundle Mall, Adelaide, has been disconnected.
SmartCompany contacted the Lovisa head office, and the head office of parent company BB Retail Capital, but is still awaiting a response.
Jeweller Magazine also contacted numerous Diva stores, only to be given confusing explanations as to the future of the business. Some stores told the publication that all Diva stores are closing, while others said all Diva stores are changing to Lovisa.
Others said some Diva stores will continue to operate while others will change to Lovisa, and some stores said they are changing to “a completely new brand”.
Customers have left several messages on the Diva Facebook page, asking what is happening to the chain, but their concerns have gone unanswered apart from one line that says the company is “consolidating” its network. The Diva Twitter and Instagram accounts have not been updated since December.
Diva was founded in 2003 by Colette and Mark Hayman, who sold the business to millionaire Rich Lister Brett Blundy in 2005, joining Blundy’s other retail interests including Bras ‘N’ Things as part of the BB Retail Capital Group.
According to Jeweller Magazine, at the height of the Diva brand, the company was operating close to 200 stores in Australia and New Zealand and up to another 400 in international markets.
BB Retail Capital launched fellow fashion jewellery brand Lovisa brand in 2010, which is now reported to operate 158 stores in Australia and around 36 internationally.
Brian Walker, chief executive of the Retail Doctor Group, told SmartCompany he has heard anecdotal stories about changes happening at Diva, but says he would be surprised if BB Retail Capital did not continue the Diva brand “in some shape or form”.
“Diva has been a highly successful and highly profitable business and for the past two years has been the mainstay, or cash cow, of Brett Blundy’s retail companies,” says Walker. “These types of businesses operate on 80% plus gross profit.”
Walker says it is possible Diva has not been generating the same metrics as Lovisa in recent times, but he expects the chain is “still a very viable business”. And he says the success of the brand leads him to think the closure of the website has been caused by a temporary technical glitch.
However, Walker says the market for inexpensive fashion jewellery is “reaching saturation point for both physical stores and online”.
“The creative force behind Diva really did come from [founders] the Haymans and the brand expanded rapidly,” says Walker. “But it now operates in a sea of competition, which it has partly created itself through the Lovisa brand.”
While Lovisa is pitched at a slightly older audience than Diva, Walker says there is some overlap between the two markets.