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Sainsbury’s plots general merchandise revival with hire of Mary Portas’ creative agency

Sainsbury’s will re-establish its Tu clothing brand and launch a new homeware brand in the coming months following the appointment of Portas, the creative agency run by retail guru Mary Portas.

The supermarket has been on the hunt for an agency since last November after spinning off the general merchandise (GM) advertising account from grocery, which went to Weiden + Kennedy last August.

Following a four-way pitch, Portas was tasked with establishing Tu, the UK’s sixth largest clothing retailer, as “a destination brand for high-street fashion” as well as launching the new Sainsbury’s Home brand, which encompasses all the supermarket’s existing home collections.

“Having spent a large proportion of 2016 sharpening up our advertising strategy in this very competitive sector, 2017 is set to be a very exciting year for us,” said Mark Given, director of marketing planning and propositions at Sainsbury’s.

“The work produced by Portas during the pitch process was very much in line with this strategy and it was great to see a refreshing new take on our fashion and home communications.”

The move is of little surprise given the growth Sainsbury’s has seen in the non-food part of its businesses of late. It noted a 10% growth in Tu clothing sales over the third quarter of 2016 prompting chief executive Mike Coupe to describe it as “exceptional”

“The clothing business was really, really exceptional over the Christmas quarter. And even general merchandise, again in a challenging market, we are showing growth,” he said during an analyst call at the beginning of the year (10 January).

“We're now the sixth largest clothing retailer by volume and in some categories. We now sell more volume than Marks & Spencer in children's ware. So, that shows the way that we've developed the proposition over the last few years and I think five years ago, you wouldn’t have believed that was possible.”

In the past, Sainsbury's relied on partnerships with the likes of Gok Wan to drive awareness and continues to work with the TV personality on online content, such as 'how to' styling videos.

To maintain that momentum, Portas has been drafted in to develop a more long-term creative strategy, beginning with a summer campaign for Tu that will run across outdoor, in-store, print, digital and social.

“We are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with Sainsbury’s to deliver our brand idea through every channel and touchpoint,” said Caireen Wackett, managing director of Portas.

But Sainsbury’s isn’t the only grocer to have enjoyed GM growth. Tesco’s F&F clothing brand posted like-for-like growth of 4.3% and Morrisons’ Nutmeg clothing range continued to rise strongly with sales up over 30% for the nine week Christmas period.

Tesco also appointed a creative agency in ODD, a business built on fashion clients including River Island and Primark, to lead an overhaul of F&F. The first work is expected in April and promises to “improve the brand consideration and awareness.”