LONDON — George, the fashion and accessories brand created by Wal-Mart’s Asda subsidiary, has taken another step toward its goal of becoming the world’s biggest mass clothing brand.
Asda said in a statement Monday it plans to centralize George’s design, sourcing and manufacturing operations to ensure the brand’s consistency, design integrity and quality as it rolls out to what could eventually be 5,000 Wal-Mart-owned stores worldwide. Asda will set up a nerve center for the brand called George Global, which will be headed by Andy Bond, the company’s general merchandise trading director and the business strategist behind George.
In coming months, Asda plans to name two senior directors of George Global. One will be responsible for product design and development, and the other will be in charge of sourcing and manufacturing. Over the next two years, Asda foresees creating an additional 100 jobs at George Global, which will be based at George’s headquarters in Leicestershire, England.
“We are taking control of the fashion and supply chain and shaping up George to turn it into a global brand,” said a George spokeswoman. “This new structure will help accelerate the growth.”
George is currently the U.K.’s second-largest clothing retailer by volume, after Marks & Spencer plc. Over the past few years, it has launched successful trials in Wal-Mart stores in Germany, the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Mexico and Canada.
Under the current operation, representatives from each of those markets receive a design pack from George’s in-house team of designers in the U.K. They adapt those designs to their markets, source their own materials and rely on their own manufacturing. With the establishment of George Global, the brand will operate like many other global fashion labels and offer unified, seasonal collections to its representatives in each market.
George Global also will oversee sourcing — and take full advantage of the economies of scale offered by Asda’s parent, Wal-Mart. “Five years ago, before Asda was bought by Wal-Mart, a standard pair of jeans cost $26.80 [or 14.99 pounds at current exchange]. Today, we’re selling jeans for $7.16 [or 4 pounds] — and they’re a better quality,” said the spokeswoman, adding the global sourcing will extend to components such as zippers and buttons.
George Global is expected to be fully operational in two years and Asda expects the line to be eventually sold in as many as 5,000 Wal-Mart stores worldwide. The spokeswoman said the rollout of George will vary, depending on the market.
The creation of George Global comes as no surprise. Last September, Bond told WWD that Wal-Mart’s goal is for George to become the world’s biggest clothing brand. “It’s an audacious goal, and not one that’s easy to achieve,” he said, adding: “It’s clear that Wal-Mart has big ambitions for apparel generally, and George will be a big part of that.”
The brand currently has sales of about $1.79 billion, or 1 billion pounds, worldwide, and continues to expand. Earlier this year, George launched a lingerie line and catwalk-driven fashion collection to be sold alongside its men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Over the past few years, it has gone into such categories as activewear, formalwear and tailored clothing.
In the past week, George unveiled a second set of stand-alone trial stores, in Northampton, in the Midlands, and Preston, in northwest England. The first George trial units opened in Leeds and Croydon in September.
The Northampton store is not near an Asda supermarket and the spokeswoman said the company was curious to see how a stand-alone George would fare in an environment where the public is not necessarily aware of the brand. The Preston unit is across the street from a Marks & Spencer.
There are no plans for a full U.K. rollout of stand-alone stores, the spokeswoman said, adding Asda wants to wait one year to assess how the trial is working.
George’s latest announcement comes just a week after M&S wooed Kate Bostock, who is currently product director of George, away from the company. She will become director of women’s wear at M&S later this year.