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How Barbour is targeting a new generation of consumer with sub-brand Beacon

Tom Bottomley
31 August 2018

Barbour is going all out to target a younger consumer, an area it feels it has been missing out on. Design Director, Ian Bergin, reveals the motives and strategy behind the new Barbour Beacon line.

Tapping in to the current trend for all things hiking and outdoor, this autumn/winter sees British heritage brand Barbour targeting a younger customer with its new Barbour Beacon line – launching in Topman, Selfridges, JD Sports, ASOS and End stores. It is also being sold in Barbour’s store at 29 Foubert’s Place, just off Carnaby Street.

Barbour Design Director, Ian Bergin, who has now been with the brand for over eight years and has overseen significant collection additions – including the footwear launch some six years ago, believes the younger end of the market, customers predominantly in their 20’s, was not an area they were really hitting. He says: “We thought we were targeting a younger consumer with our ‘heritage’ collection but, because it had a high design focus and was more expensive, it was really just distributed to accounts we already dealt with. So, it seems, we were just targeting a more astute customer who was younger in the head.”

Barbour Beacon is different because it’s properly targeted towards a younger consumer, and its aimed at a different distribution, with Beacon branding on the labels and swing tickets, as well as slightly more competitive price points.

Big branding is big news in the industry at the moment, and the collection does include some T-shirts with Barbour in bold, along with the Beacon lighthouse logo underneath. The name for the brand comes from the Beacon lighthouse which stands at the mouth of the River Tyne in the North East of England, and has long been synonymous with Barbour, welcoming sailors and rivermen to South Shields since 1894.

The main focus, however, is very much on on outdoor. Says Bergin: “In many respects, we are reacting like a lot of brands to the current trend, and a lot of the big outdoor, what I call ‘hard performance’ brands, such as The North Face, Patagonia and Arc'teryx, moving in to an area that was not previously their sector. They have proper mountaineering collections, but they’ve moved in, through the likes of JD Sports and others, to a younger and more mass-market distribution.”

The outdoor clothing trend is no doubt taking a big chunk of the market share, and Bergin also points to brands such as Fjällräven, Herschel, Napapijri and Penfield, which he terms “casual mountaineer brands”, as also reaping the benefits. “The outdoor trend fits really well with sportswear, which has been so prevalent,” he offers. “It’s all about comfort, stretch, protection and warmth. So, we thought, well we’re about protection and warmth, and a bit about comfort as well - with 125 years-worth of experience - so we should be tapping in to that as well."

Barbour’s main business remains its lifestyle business, which includes its country wear and ‘coastal’ collections, targeting a slightly older consumer in their 40’s. “Our sweet spot is say a 44 year-old,” explains Bergin. “Our distribution is aimed, through a lot of the department stores we deal with such as John Lewis, around that target market. But you reach a certain point in every market where you’ve hit the ideal level of distribution for that particular curve. So, it makes sense to aim at growing our appeal to a younger customer.”

There’s also the Barbour International collection, which is all the Steve McQueen referenced jackets and clothing, as well as a separate made for Japan line – which is also distributed to the top independents in the UK. On top of that there’s ongoing high-end collaborations, including the current one with New York’s Engineered Garments, with jackets retailing between £349 - £629. It’s clearly very much about trying to cover all areas of the market for the Barbour brand, and the Beacon line is just the latest addition in a long line of new collection launches in recent years. Early responses to it from buyers and customers alike has been very positive.

Key pieces in the AW18 collection include the Barbour Beacon ‘Egremont Fleece’, which is an unlined fleece with contrast branding and binding and tonal pockets in contrasting fabric. Very much on the hiking tip, the fleece is available in the core colours of navy and olive. Highlight colours of royal blue and orange are used throughout the collection, including an orange lining and zip on an updated waxed Barbour jacket in a slimmer fit, currently retailing at £199 at Topman. There’s also a lightweight multi-pocket backpack in the collection, again focusing on all-things outdoor.

To get the new Beacon brand message across to a younger audience, and to the ‘influencers’, Barbour is partnering with Highsnobiety, who have created some content, including a video and photography which was all shot in Barbour’s South Shields home.

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