If you know you can’t compete with value brands or those with large footprints, you have to identify what makes you special, why customers buy your offerings and what they want
Cath Kidston’s net promoter score fell by ten points in Q4, already suggesting that the retailer was in for a tough end of year performance
Along with other 90s/early 2000s favourites Oasis and Warehouse, homeware and clothing retailer Cath Kidston announced it was going into administration this month.
According to Savanta BrandVue Retail data, the London-based chain started seeing a decline in autumn 2019, with many metrics on a downward trend leading into 2020.
While there had been some sign of things starting to turn around, a poor end of year (including Christmas) and then the dramatic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak proved too much for yet another high street brand. Cath Kidston’s net promoter score fell by ten points in Q4, already suggesting that the retailer was in for a tough end of year performance.
What went wrong?
While Cath Kidston was well known, with good levels of awareness, fewer shoppers were willing to consider the brand by the end of last year. In fact, converting awareness into consideration has always been a challenge for the retailer. Its consideration score fell from 20% to 17% over 2019, a pattern seen with many other high street chains which have recently gone into administration —including Mothercare, House of Fraser and Debenhams.
Its customer preference score also declined from 29% to 24% between summer 2019 and March 2020.
According to BrandVue image data, in terms of prompted associations the descriptor that most comes to mind when customers think of Cath Kidston is ‘premium’ —followed by ‘stylish’, ‘quality’ and ‘trusted’. However, associations with quality and style had also started to decline’; a weakening in perceptions of its strongest traits meant it was difficult for the brand to continue to justify its premium positioning.
What’s more, since the financial crisis a decade ago, searching for value has become more and more important to consumers. For Cath Kidston, this metric is one of its biggest weaknesses and never got above approximately 5%.
In the end, it seems the brand was mainly seen as a “treat product”, somewhere to buy the occasional gift rather than something practical for yourself to wear or use at home. Over the past year, the number of people saying that they thought Cath Kidston was an ‘exciting’ brand had also dropped from 11% to 7%.
What can other brands do to avoid a similar fate?
There is no doubt that the steady decline of the high street and —now on top of that —the extraordinary, all-encompassing outbreak of a global pandemic are immense challenges for even the most robust retailer. But are there elements within retailers’ power which could help stem the tide?
The main thing within brands’ control is ensuring they have a great omnichannel set up; this is more important than ever now that the only way we can purchase many items is online. At the moment, many brands— outside of the grocery sector — which solely or mainly rely on physical footfall will be rueing a lack of digital investment now.
Accessing your products needs to be as easy as possible for consumers. Premium or not, if you don’t have great physical availability then you won’t survive. This has been made even more important now that shops are shut during lockdown. Cath Kidston had also seen a slight drop in satisfaction both instore and online.
Secondly, especially for brands like Cath Kidston which serve a more niche/ premium market, the big question is how to defend their customer base.
If you know you can’t compete with value brands or those with large footprints, you have to identify what makes you special, why customers buy your offerings and what they want— and defend that territory to all ends.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that we will see many more high street chains collapse as the lockdown continues, but in the long run we hope that there will be opportunities for retailers to survive and thrive in the new world that awaits us after.
Get in touch to find out more about BrandVue Retail.