Aspirational fashion – Office®
Office is the aspirational fashion footwear brand for the youthful UK and European customer. A key differentiator for Office is its strength and appeal to the young fashionable female customer and maintaining and developing this is a strategic priority for the Office business. The Office brand focuses on the fashion-savvy ‘London girl’, bringing her a unique combination of the most wanted branded footwear and sneaker product, and is positioned as ‘the omni-channel hub for the “London girl” and all her footwear needs’.
Offspring is all about high-end fashion sneakers and provides young, fashionable and highly discerning male and female ‘sneakerheads’ with exclusive, limited edition and most sought-after styles that are in high demand. Offspring has a very well-established and powerful social media presence and is recognised and admired as ‘the most authentic and connected sneaker community globally’. This community is central to Offspring’s unique positioning and enables ongoing collaboration and mutually beneficial partnerships with the leading brands.
Refer to Material issues, risks and opportunities for more detail.
THE OFFICE FASHION OFFERING
Office is proud of its London heritage, drawing inspiration and gaining credibility from its origins in the heart of one of the leading fashion destinations in the world. This heritage combined with the unusual focus on the female consumer makes Office a much sought-after retail partner for the best fashion footwear and top sneaker brands globally. The branded offering is further enhanced by a trend-led range of own-brand fashion footwear for men and women.
Recognised as a strategic account by its branded product partners, Office enjoys product priority on best sellers and, in some instances, the opportunity to collaborate with key brands to design and develop unique product exclusively available in Office and Offspring stores. These relationships have been developed over many years and Office works closely with suppliers to identify future trends and build mutually beneficial strategies to enhance brand exposure and elevation.
Office’s fashion-orientated philosophy requires that the teams continually enhance and develop their knowledge of emerging fashion and consumer trends. This process has evolved in recent years through the sharing of knowledge of Truworths’ robust buying, planning and sourcing processes.
Office’s own label ‘made-to-order’ (MTO) product is designed in-house and sourced globally from appropriate countries of origin that offer excellent quality and value combined with the flexibility of European suppliers who can provide quick response and the ability to react dynamically to demand. This is particularly important to ensure that Office can represent emerging trends in a highly competitive and fast-paced fashion footwear market.
In recent years the Truworths buying and planning methodologies have been applied in Office. These proven processes have been implemented in order to improve stock management, ensure well-balanced ranges and drive improved margins through reduction in markdown activity.
Office holds a premium mainstream positioning and is committed to providing customers with quality footwear that is not only fashionable but also comfortable. Buying and technical teams work closely with suppliers to ensure Office’s product meets UK and European quality and testing standards.
Forecasting fashion trends
Designers and buyers track trends and ensure the merchandise reflects the latest looks. Trend information is sourced through international trade fairs, online subscriptions, social media, international and local retail inspiration as well as global and local street trends. Celebrity styling and events are also analysed to ensure that ‘must-have’ items are available. The design team creates unique product that is aligned with the Office handwriting to create a broad and exciting range of footwear for all the customer’s lifestyle needs. Speed to market and trend reaction are increasingly important factors for both ladies’ and men’s product as customers are exposed to trends sooner through social media and react and shop them immediately.
Office is committed to ethical and fair manufacturing. All own-label suppliers are required to comply with the Office Code of Ethics and Good Business Practices, which is designed to be fair, achievable and promote the ongoing sustainable development of suppliers. Regular factory visits are undertaken by the buying and technical teams to ensure quality and ethical production standards are being maintained. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted travel since early 2020 necessitating alternative methods to monitor quality standards, including the use of new technologies and virtual processes. Adherence to our ethical standards continues to be governed by the Office Code of Ethics and Good Business Practices and ethical policies as outlined in our Supplier Manual.
The code of ethics is based on international standards including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation Conventions. The code’s general principles ensure that all people who are employed through Office’s suppliers must have decent working conditions, not be exploited and be treated fairly and with dignity. All products must be produced lawfully, through fair and honest dealings.
A formal statement from the board is published annually on the Office website in compliance with the UK Modern Slavery Act legislation.
MANAGING THE RISK OF FASHION IN 2021
Retailers across the UK high street have continued to discount aggressively and promote to grow revenue and reduce stock. Office used the COVID-19 period to reduce stock levels and address legacy stock issues which impacted margins positively during the reporting period.
The branded footwear market continues to be heavily influenced by social media which can drive rapid changes in brand popularity with limited time to react to changing customer choice. In the past popular brands would be in fashion for several seasons but new and emerging brands are now growing in popularity over a far shorter time frame.
Following the disappointing performance of own-label MTO product in 2019, Office refined its product strategy with a view to providing greater clarity to the buying and design teams on product direction and also reducing the number of styles to ensure a more focused range. The outcomes of these interventions were unfortunately disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19.
Management aims to increase the contribution from the higher margin MTO category as a proportion of total sales to increase Office’s gross margin and to further entrench its unique market proposition. As the majority of MTO orders from March 2020 onwards were cancelled due to COVID-19, the benefits of this refined product strategy supported by the Truworths trend forecasting and buying teams are only expected to be realised in the 2022 financial period.