While leafing through my Empire Stores spring/summer catalogue last night, I felt a sense of deja vu. When I got to the office this morning and saw the spring/summer Great Universal catalogue on my desk, I realised why. Except for the front cover and opening spread, they're the exact same book, with the exact same credit offer. Likewise, so far as I can tell, the websites are the same. Only the phone numbers and the URLs differ.
Of course, both brands are owned by Shop Direct, the parent company of Littlewoods. Empire was acquired last year; Great Universal in 2004. But why should both brands have virtually the same 1,126-page catalogue? Or perhaps the better question is, Why should Shop Direct support two separate, but nearly identical, brands? Why not migrate both brands to the Littlewoods fascia?
I can understand that Shop Direct might be afraid of eroding hard-won brand loyalty. But consumers aren't stupid; if executed thoughtfully and thoroughly, transitioning "Great Universal" and "Empire" to "Littlewoods" shouldn't cost the company many, if any, of its good customers. And by consolidating its brands, Shop Direct could get maximum bang for its advertising buck when promoting Littlewoods on TV and elsewhere. I'd imagine it could save money on the back end as well.
In today's Independent, Robin Knight of restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper is quoted as saying, "There will undoubtedly be a further flurry of collapses in the retail sector because retail is still heavily oversubscribed–there are too many fascias, stores, and too much space." It seems that even within Shop Direct there may be too many fascias–unless any of you out there can convince me otherwise.–SC