Can Warehouse’s radical rebrand put it back on the map?
Warehouse has revealed the fruits of an 18-month project to revitalise the brand, including a stripped back logo and new vision for its Autumn/Winter collection it hopes will re-establish its place amongst shoppers.
Often left in the shadow of global giants H&M and Zara, Warehouse has arguably become the forgotten brand of the British high street. Last year, it announced its intention to change that by bringing fashion favourites Emma Cook and Alasdhair Willis in to reshape its future.
Willis would oversee the brand proposition, brand identity, product handwriting, new store concepts and manage the brand's digital experience while Cook – who worked with Ghost and Liberty before launching her own label 16 years ago – was hired to breathe new life into the clothing and accessories.
Strategically, hiring Willis was a savvy move for Warehouse. As creative director at Hunter, he’s been instrumental taking it from a stuffy wellington boot brand to a pioneering fashion powerhouse that’s embracing all manner of new tech when it comes to both the in-store experience and marketing.
The influence of Willis and Cook on Warehouse is now beginning to shine through. The logo – unchanged from its white name on a black background – has been modernised by reversing the colour scheme and updating to a sans serif, upper case typeface for the brand name, encased in square brackets, all in an effort to reflect the brand’s new, slicker, style (shown above).
The branding will make its way into stores and on packaging, which has also been given a more luxury feel; gone are the plastic bags and instead customers will be handed a ribbon-adorned, paper carrier with messaging such as "some things can only happen in your city - limitless day, endless night".
More importantly, under Cook’s direction the autumn/winter collection has made the cut and quality of fabrics a priority while also embracing her unique eye for a pattern. That update has come at a higher price point than its previous wares; starting at £25 and exiting nearer £250 mark (£50 more than before). For those shoppers with an eye for the exclusive, some pieces – such as a shearling coat – will come in at nearer £650
With the refresh, then, Warehouse is eyeing a new customer – the 25 to 40-year old "city" woman and will find itself now competition with the likes of Cos and Whistles for her attention.
Carla Buzasi, the global chief content officer at trend forecasting company WGSN, said Warehouse will need to take on some of the more up and coming online brands which women have been increasingly turning to.
“The 30-something woman is always on the hunt for something well-made, stylish and confident for her wardrobe, and Emma Cook’s first collection for Warehouse looks like it will deliver neatly into that need,” said Buzasi.
“It’s one of the reasons Finery [launched in 2015] is the most talked about fashion brand in well-dressed urban circles at the moment. But also why brands like &OtherStories have managed to make an impact on the British high street relatively quickly.”
With the shake-up at Warehouse other “forgotten” high street brands, such as Oasis, might also be pushed to take a look at their own offerings.
“Competition on the high street is always good. It makes all brands reassess their own offering and shakes up our expectations of cut, quality and, increasingly today, sustainability, as well as in-store and online experience,” added Buzasi.
It remains to be seen how Warehouse - which has never been a big ad spender – will communicate the new offering. Where it’s previously relied on social media and content marketing to reach customers, such a radical overhaul means it will likely have to rethink the strategy.
Sarah Todd, chief executive at Geometry Global UK - a brand activation agency – says having Willis and Cook attached to Warehouse will attract new shoppers but adds that the retailer should also consider pushing this more with the ‘exclusive’ ranges that shoppers have come to love thanks to tactics employed by the likes of H&M with its ever-popular brand collaborations.
“Warehouse should make sure to make the most of this new direction online – nowadays it’s often the online exclusive ranges that sell out first as FOMO is pushing the most competitive shopper straight online,” she said.
The rebrand of Warehouse stores will be slow and gradual, starting in London before working out to other key cities in its portfolio ahead of the full launch later in the year.