Littlewoods turns to fashion in web shift

LONDON - Littlewoods Shop Direct is repositioning as a fashion-led retailer, as it continues to move away from its mail-order model to focus on its internet business.

The firm, whose own-brand products generate 50% of sales, is creating seven womenswear labels this year, to accompany Love Label, its fast-fashion line, which posted sales of £50m last year.

The company also plans to target younger consumers, claiming that more than 50% of its additional customers in the autumn/winter season were aged between 18 and 35.

Group chief executive Mark Newton-Jones, said that growth will be driven by the firm's online business, which is forecast to reach £500m in the year to 31 April and accounts for 50% of total sales, up from 21% in 2005; it plans to double this to £1bn by 2011 'The business is fast becoming a web retail, rather than a mail-order, business,' said Newton-Jones, a former Next Directory boss, who was hired in 2003 to rescue the ailing firm. The Barclay brothers-owned company is two years into a five-year turnaround programme, following its merger with Great Universal Stores in 2005.

Last Christmas, Littlewoods launched its first advertising campaign for 10 years, featuring style gurus Trinny and Susannah. The £15m work was created by WCRS and used the strapline 'Mission improbable'.

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