Opinion

Fresh Face?


By Suzanne Tanner | 23.11.18

Fat Face, Market Harborough

Incoming CEO Liz Evans will officially take up her new role at Fat Face in January 2019, but the newly opened Fat Face store in the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough already gives clues that the business is moving in a new direction, complete with re-brand.

After vacating the quieter end of town a year ago, it has now returned with a new stamp, refurbishing the previous Benson for Beds store. A lot has changed while the brand has been away. The most striking example is the new brand identity that adorns the fascia above the store entrance. It certainly flickers a refreshing and somewhat different ‘look and feel’. But is it for the better?

Soon to become part of the legacy of departing boss Anthony Thompson, who has been with the business for almost nine years, it will be interesting to see how many of the elements present at this store will be retained once Evans takes the helm. Particularly as much of what she will see, if she visits, are arguably more reminiscent of a mainstream fashion brand (like Warehouse) than a specialist retailer synonymous with living ‘close-to-nature’ life outside.

what direction shall we go in?

 

The engaging, warm and slightly rustic and outdoor feeling that we are used to from the brand – this most certainly is not. Instead, this new, fresh, clean store has a somewhat lifeless energy. This theme is repeated through instore POS, with the emotive imagery we have come to expect from Fat Face replaced by ‘generic’, uninspiring fashion imagery. Put simply, there’s little on show here that brings the brand and product story to life.

Its clothes may be all about the comfortable fit, but this new store doesn’t fit – with the brand, or even itself. Light wood fixtures feature numerous enhancements, from copper edging to white accents. There are opposing suggestions of POS use aplenty, both in terms of themes and outputs, while half hearted glass flasks barely filled with props are just one of several differing display ideas. Then there is the navigation system that is so subtle it’s barely worth having.

In short, there have been lots of delicately changes made, but with little authority, giving the impression of “what direction shall we go in?”

clever idea, or a step towards total confusion?

The store tangibly feels like the brand is ‘trialling’ a multitude of ideas before confirming decisions and rolling out further through the chain. A clever idea, or a step towards total confusion?

The retailer’s head of marketing spoke of Fat Face now having a “revitalised and defined brand purpose… a unique and relevant platform on which to continue to grow.” A willingness to embrace change and to keep moving to reflect an ever-evolving market and customer base is always good to see. But in truth, this store feels like a step too far towards the hordes of ‘white box’ mainstream retailers that already occupy the high street. Too “me too”, the brand is endanger of stepping too far away from its roots – losing its point of difference as a result. Something that is unlikely to capture the imaginations (and wallets) of Fat Face brand loyalists.

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