My friend messaged me on Friday last week – “Hels, I’m worried about Topshop. Should I panic buy jeans?”
Clearly, this is a sign that Topshop once had a loyal consumer – perhaps still does – but it sadly wasn’t enough to keep the business afloat and competing in 2020.
So how did Philip Green and the Arcadia Group go from cosying up on the front row with Kate, Kendall and Cara, to falling into administration?
There are a multitude of reasons, and it certainly wasn’t one single thing which caused this to happen. Articles I’ve read have cited the departure of Jane Shepherdson, as well as the increased focus on sustainability. Although sustainability is becoming more of a focus for fashion brands, there is no doubt we’re still shopping regularly. If the likes of Primark, ASOS and Zara can survive, why couldn’t Topshop?
For me, it comes down to two things: target audience and content strategy. Topshop lost its way with who it was trying to speak to – torn between being the brand for the Kate or Gigi generation. It has been continuing to push products, but not considering the mindset of its consumer.
This confusion is evident simply by comparing the feeds of Topshop’s social channels with its competitors.
Topshop’s bio reads:
ASOS’s bio reads:
What stands out here is that Topshop’s tone of voice is self-serving, asking its audience to promote its products in exchange for being featured on the feed. There’s a role for UGC of course, but there is a clear difference here in the positioning from ASOS, which starts with a point of view and sets up the tone of its community – no judgement.
ASOS has responded to the expectations of its consumers through what it says and what it does. Creating unisex, sustainable and plus-size clothing ranges backs up its commitment to inclusivity and sustainability.
And the opportunity on Instagram is not taken lightly by ASOS; if you’ve been on the app you are sure to be served within hours with Instagram ads that are optimised with exactly the items you were looking at, plus more inspiration – and all buyable at the click of a button. Topshop was doing this to some extent of course, but it didn’t take it to the same level – the tiny details like free next day delivery make all the difference. As well as having the right partnerships in place.
The influencers of today are not just supermodels, but prolific bloggers who know their audience inside out. By leveraging these relationships and co-creating product lines, there is real commercial value to be had not only for fashion brands but even in high-value purchases. We’re behind the curve on this when compared with China, where influencers like Becky Li have been at the forefront of these deals – famously selling out 100 Mini Coopers on WeChat within five minutes. These are the type of targets that a carmaker might take months to meet in any given European market.
Who knows where the Arcadia empire will net out, but there are certainly lessons to be learnt about staying laser-focused on audience, changing with the times, and never standing still. For now, the Topshop website is offering 20% off all jeans.