Quinn leagas



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Description: The clothes retailer's reluctance to move on from its boho look has left it trailing...

The clothes retailer's reluctance to move on from its boho look has left it trailing fast-fashion rivals.

Monsoon, the fashion retailer famed for its bohemian style, has fallen out of favour with the nation's fast-fashion-obsessed women. In the year to May, pre-tax profits fell from pounds 53.5m to pounds 46.1m, making it the retailer's worst performance in its 34-year history.

The firm's trademark floaty summer skirts have suffered to some extent as a consequence of the dreadful weather that has blighted Britain this summer. But its problems run deeper than a few grey skies; chairman and founder Peter Simon has admitted things have not been right with its merchandise across the whole year. To add to his woes, Simon has also had to deal with the loss of chief executive Rose Foster, who left for lingerie chain La Senza in March.

Simon set up the business in 1973, selling hand-blocked printed clothes and shaggy woollen coats imported from Rajasthan. Later that year, he opened Monsoon's first shop in London's Knightsbridge. The chain now has a global presence, accompanied by its sister chain Accessorize.

Although its clothes have changed over time, Monsoon has not strayed far from its Eastern influences, which continue to sit at the heart of its ranges. This provided a high point for the brand in 2004, when actress Sienna Miller popularised the boho-chic look, but, inevitably, fashion has moved on since.

After enlisting actress and model Liz Hurley to be its face for the spring/summer season, the retailer has opted for Danish supermodel Helena Christensen to front its autumn/winter collections. These days no celebrity fashion tie-up is complete without an accompanying range, and, as part of the deal, Christensen has agreed to create a 'green' line for the retailer, which will launch with the autumn collection.

The initiative sits well with the Monsoon brand's strong links to India, as well as attempts made last year to tap into consumer interest in ethical living, with a range of T-shirts produced from Fairtrade-certified cotton. However, it remains to be seen whether activities such as these will improve its fortunes.

We asked Tony Quinn, planning director at Leagas Delaney, which handles the advertising for Driza-Bone, and Nick Gray, managing director of specialist retail agency Live & Breathe, and a former head of marketing at Ben Sherman, how Monsoon can revive its appeal.

Ah, the fickle finger of fashion. One day you're the pride and joy of Grazia, the next you're a Soap Awards' faux pas. On yet another day you're enjoying a 'stellar performance' (Financial Times, 2005), while the next you're in a 'slump' (Financial Times, 2007).

How can this be? Where can the fickle finger of blame be pointed for such a catastrophic downturn in fortunes? …

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