Another beloved brand may be biting the dust. This time its the British-based, almost profanity-loving label, French Connection or—as we love to see splashed across their trademark t-shirts—FCUK. After 40 years in operation, the cheeky company has decided to close many of their freestanding stores worldwide, including 17 of the 23 stores in the U.S. The retailer also said it had agreed to sell its upscale Nicole Farhi
brand to the Los Angeles, Calif.-based private-equity firm OpenGate
Capital LLC for up to £5 million, depending on the Farhi label's
French Connection first rose to fame across the pond in 1997 with its double-take making FCUK t-shirts headlining a hip collection of of the moment fashion at a slightly higher price-point than most fast fashion chains. The company's sales maintained steadily for about nine years until 2006, when a sudden decline in sales made them rethink their marketing strategies. "At some point we became a little complacent," says Roy Naismith,
French Connection's finance director. "With the FCUK branding itself,
it was time to move on." So the company took a big risk with developing an ad campaign featuring two women fighting over French Connection clothes and then giving up and kissing, which ended paying off.
But even that eyebrow-raising technique only lasted so long and last fall, the company had to announce that they would close all 21 of its Japanese stores and its underperforming stores in Northern Europe to refocus on the U.K. and Ireland. Now with the new shuttering of the U.S. stores and potential sale, it seems FCUK may not have long for this world. Especially, some analysts say, with their reputation for higher price-points that don't reflect the quality of the clothes. "You can't have markedly higher prices than your competitors without a
substantial brand and proven, discernible quality to justify them,"
says Bryan Roberts, global research director at the consultancy Planet
Retail. Bur Naismith balks at suggestions of the company going out of business completely, saying they still have solid standing on their home turf in London. "We've been in business for almost 40 years," Mr. Naismith says. "Yes,
we've seen some ups and downs, but we are a fixture on the High
Street." Guess that just means all the U.S. fans will have to travel a bit farther to get their FCUK fix.
Article and Photo Source: Wall Street Journal
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