Fashion chain Bank makes surprise return to the high street
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After fashion chain Bank became the first major retail collapse of 2015, back in January – followed by the closure of its 84 stores by April – you could be forgiven for thinking that we’d seen the last of that fascia. Some stores, such as Middlesbrough’s, have been taken over by newcomers like Pep&Co; Newcastle’s is becoming an actual bank; while quite a few have remained empty.
But not so. I was somewhat surprised this morning to find that I’d been followed by a recently created Twitter account calling itself ‘Bank Ashton’ (@bank_ashton), whose description reads “Bank Ashton is back Stocking; Superdry Jack Jones Only and Sons Vera Moda Vila Only JDY Lipsy Paperdolls”. As a grammar and punctuation pedant (I can’t help it – I do offer proofreading services, after all) I’d query the semicolon use and capitalised ‘stocking’, but you get the idea.
What we know
Naturally intrigued, I’ve been chatting to @bank_ashton this morning to try to understand a bit more about what’s happening, and who it is behind this venture. In short:
- The old Bank Fashion website is forwarding to Ark.co.uk – which is one of the brands owned by JD, the company that sold Bank to restructuring specialist Hilco Capital just weeks before its administration. However, the relaunched Bank says it is “nothing to do with JD” – it is just “an independent that has bought the Bank name”. So, it indicates that the Bank brand and the website domain have been sold separately, to different purchasers.
- It turns out that the Ashton store, in the Arcades shopping centre, is just one of six reopened Bank stores, the others being Manchester Arndale, Huddersfield, Oldham, Newport and Redditch.
- I can be forgiven for not knowing anything about Bank’s reappearance until now. Apart from having one of retail’s most un-Googleable names, there’s no website for the relaunched retailer as yet, and seemingly nothing on the web about its return either. There is an Instagram account for the Ashton branch, though.
Will it work?
It’s a brave move to bring back Bank, given that the retailer’s old incarnation was heavily lossmaking (recording a pre-tax loss of £8.1m in the year to 1 February 2014), and, arguably, it isn’t a fascia that has an especially strong history, recognition or resonance on the high street.
On the other hand, this clearly isn’t an Ethel Austin-style relaunch where those associated with past failures come back for another go, but looks to be a new team bringing their own experience and qualities to the table.
The challenge will be to keep the best bits of the old Bank, such as its range of familiar brands, while tackling the issues that were problematic last time. For example, in a market awash with online and high street retailers selling identical labels, there is much to be said for bringing in more independent brands to help differentiate the offer, and take advantage of being a smaller and nippier operation that can better respond to local suppliers and markets.
It won’t be easy – and there’s definitely scope for the new Bank to do more to let people know that it’s back – but, as always, I wish them well.
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market insight, including detailed coverage of the North East and nationwide. It also works with retailers to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.