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The Index: Superdry – is it really just a "dad" brand?

Lauretta Roberts
16 December 2019

When asked last week at its trading update whether the new design direction at Superdry could widen the brand's appeal beyond its core "dad" base to wider (read younger) family members, founder & CEO Julian Dunkerton said the question was "a bit naughty".

By all accounts the trading update, in which Superdry revealed it had swung to a six-month loss to 26 October of £4.2 million (it had been hit by an accounting error, a £6.9 million charge to cover bad debts associated with its loss-making joint venture in China, as well as tough trading), was a tense one.

Financial journalists from leading national newspapers were invited to come and see chief creative officer Phil Dickinson's new creative vision for the brand, which included the introduction of new sub-brands to appeal to a wider audience (a taster was shown at Pitti Uomo earlier this year). It's probably fair to say the former Nike design supremo (who is working alongside Dunkerton who returned to the brand earlier this year to turn it around) may not be wheeled out again in front of such an audience any time soon.

Dickinson to all intents and purposes implied that none of the assembled journalists had the personal style credentials to judge whether the clothes would be a success or not, leading The Times retail & M&A editor Ashley Armstrong to quip later in a Tweet: "We'll say your designs are great when the sales show it." It is said that the more affable Dunkerton and chairman Peter Williams spent some time calling and apologising to journalists for Dickinson's prickly behaviour after the event.

Leaving that unifying episode to one side, was Dunkerton right to suggest that it is a bit "naughty" to question whether Superdry can appeal to a younger consumer or not? Indeed – and perhaps surprisingly to those who insist it's impossible to sell kids a brand their parents wear – it would seem so.

According to new data from TheIndustry.fashion's monthly brand and retail tracker, The Index, the image of Superdry as a middle-England dad brand doesn't reveal the whole picture at all. We asked 2,000 British shoppers, who had all shopped for fashion in the past three months, which stores & websites they had visited (from a list of 100 tracked brands), and which they had bought from or which they had left empty handed.

Of those shoppers that had shopped in premium brands or retailers, some 20% overall said they had visited a Superdry retail store and bought something, with a further 6% saying they had bought online and a further 4% saying they had bought via both channels (see graph below).

Superdry The Index

It's clear that the 35-44 year old market most favours the brand with 30% of them buying in-store, a further 7% buying online and a further 6% buying across both channels. Its next most committed customer base is the 45-54 year olds. So, yes, suffice to say to say dads like it.

Cross-generational appeal

But, what's interesting is that Superdry (along with Ted Baker, which we will examine later this week) is one of the few fashion brands in The Index to have true cross-generational appeal.

Gen Z shoppers, in the 16-24 year old category, are buying Superdry. Some 21% said they had bought in-store with a further 6% buying online and 9% on top of that buying via both channels. Younger millennials also buy it with 17% of those buying in-store (see chart for further breakdowns). In fact the brand's appeal only really drops off for the over-65s.

The figures also challenge the Middle England perception too. By far the more enthusiastic consumers of Superdry are in London, with the Midlands finding it the least appealing, and its customer tends towards the more affluent.

As well as tracking who is shopping where, we also asked consumers to tell us about positive and negative sentiment towards a brand, from which we extract our unique "Buzz Score". Superdry, despite the drama surrounding Dunkerton's audacious board room coup to have himself re-installed following a dismal financial performance, still manages to charts respectably overall on our Buzz Score list, with a +11% score (see full report for all 100 Buzz Scores).

Superdry

When the Buzz Score positive and negative sentiment is broken down further, it's clear that Superdry ranks more positively among 16-24 year olds than any other age group, and indeed in London more than any other region (see chart above). Again its cross-generational appeal is evident with its positive Buzz remaining robust through to the 45-54 year old age group.

Superdry

Negative Buzz about the brand, however, is also the highest among young consumers (which should give it pause for thought) and, in the context of The Index overall, pretty high versus the 100 tracked brands, suggesting the negative publicity around its financial figures does seep into the public consciousness. Remember these figures were taken during November, before the latest news of a loss, so we might expect to see that negativity increase before it improves.

But if it can improve it (by turning around its numbers, retaining and building on its cross-generational appeal and perhaps investing in some media training for its creative chief) then it has a chance of becoming one of fashion's best-performers once again. 

The Index is produced in partnership with Klarna. It is free to view for paid members of TheIndustry.fashion. Already a member? View The Index here. If you are not a paid member, learn more about The Index and how to join here.

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