Next, a well-known fashion retailer, is embarking on an ambitious plan to become the “Ocado of fashion retail.” The company, which recently acquired a stake in Reiss and has the option to take full control, is aiming to transform its business model and capitalize on its £2 billion online business. This move comes as Next launches the latest collection from Laura Ashley, further strengthening its third-party partnerships.

Laura Ashley, following its acquisition by investment firm Gordon Brothers in April 2020, sees this collaboration as the first step in building strategic wholesale and retail relationships. For Next, this marks a significant shift from being a brand that sells its own products. Through its Label operation, Next now offers other labels, positioning itself as a technology powerhouse and expanding its offerings beyond fashion. This expansion includes acquisitions like Victoria’s Secret UK and the launch of its premium beauty chain.

Next’s chief, Simon Wolfson, has a bold vision for the company. He envisions Next as the ‘Ocado of fashion’, providing a total platform for smaller and mid-sized brands. Leveraging its already established infrastructure, including logistics, warehousing, customer databases, and currency exchange capabilities, Next aims to become a tech partner for fashion rather than just a retail chain. This total platform encompasses distribution and fulfillment services, setting it apart from other similar offerings such as Shopify.

Currently, Next’s total platform hosts Childsplay, an upscale kidswear brand. However, the company aims to attract more brands by offering a fixed commission model that reduces risk for these brands in case of seasonal missteps. Next has invested heavily in technology and personnel to develop this platform in-house. THG Ingenuity, a similar offering by The Hut Group, has already signed up major brands, and Next aims to replicate this success by moving Reiss, a higher-profile brand, onto the platform.

According to Simon Wolfson, fashion brands with turnovers between £50 million and £250 million are the ideal partners for Next’s total platform. Once Reiss proves successful on the platform, Next plans to seek even larger brand collaborations. While comparisons can be made to companies like Ocado and THG, Wolfson believes that Next’s total service offering is unmatched. However, he acknowledges that it may take some time for the platform to deliver significant profits.

As Next expands its third-party offerings and partnerships, it solidifies its position as a major player in the fashion retail industry. With a clear vision and ambitious goals, the company is well on its way to becoming the “Ocado of fashion.”

Useful links:
1. THG Ingenuity: The Hut Group Ingenuity
2. Ocado Group