Joe Fresh vs. Zara vs. H&M vs. Uniqlo

I’ll admit it. I just don’t get what Joe Fresh (June 8–11) is doing in Manhattan.

First admission: I’ve been a fan of Joe Fresh because of its value pricing (admittedly lower quality products, but that’s okay); great, edited styling (but for a specific market niche); and solid visual presentation (always easy to shop); and fashion right items (for the Joe Fresh niche).

And I know Club Monaco had great success with its stores in Manhattan—which are big volume producers, especially when compared to Club Monaco’s Canadian mall stores.

So how to judge Joe Fresh in NYC? …by comparing it with the similar competitors with which it chose to locate: H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo (a few blocks further up Fifth).

H&M

  • Large store, ±40,000 sq. ft.
  • NE corner of Fifth and 42nd
  • Intensely merchandised on two floors
  • Promotional, sale, and basics @ $5.95 on up
  • ±12 customers lined up at service desks
  • ±180 people in the store @ 1:15 pm
  • “Very busy”

Zara

  • Smaller store, ±20,000 sq. ft., 2 floors
  • NW corner of Fifth and 42nd opposite H&M
  • Intensely merchandised from entrance to rear walls
  • Typical Zara, fashion-forward styles
  • Children’s department
  • ±6 customers lined up at service desks
  • ±80 people in the store @ 1:20 pm
  • “Busy”

Joe Fresh

  • ±20,000 sq. ft., 2 floors
  • West side of Fifth north of Zara
  • Lightly merchandised, by product/color theme
  • No merchandise in the front and forward position
  • 1 customer at the service desk
  • ±40 people in the store @ 1:25 pm
  • Not busy, staff folding garments
  • A very “Hamptons” look to the merchandise (a very narrow niche)

Uniqlo (not pictured)

  • Large store, ±90,000 sq. ft.
  • Power merchandised
  • Feature value, new products
  • Probably 300 people, but store layout makes instant count impossible
  • Sizing way off U.S. standard (I could not get an XXL on, and I am an L)

So, what about Joe Fresh?

Why have they chosen to underperform? Isn’t their design-scope far too narrow and limiting the brand’s appeal? Why not use the most valuable space in the store (say $2,000 per sq ft. sales productivity)?

This can’t be a “promotional brand shrine”—can it? The message is not strong enough and clearly shoppers prefer the alternatives—in H&M’s case probably on an 8 to 1 basis, or is it all about Joe Mimran?

Time to get back to the drawing boards!

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