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PAS Group to relaunch Review website, enter China

Diversified fashion retailer PAS Group will explore listing on Amazon when it arrives in Australia, as the company looks to launch its Review brand on Alibaba’s Tmall platform over the coming year.

In a year that has seen US firm Coliseum Capital increase its ownership interest in the company from 49 per cent to approximately 65 per cent, PAS Group has also battled a long list of macroeconomic factors that have weighed heavily on discretionary spending, leading retailers across the sector to discount heavily for longer periods to remain competitive, and to aggressively manage stock positions.

Despite the subdued retail environment, the company reported EBITDA from continuing operations of $18.8m at its recent AGM.

Retail sales grew by 3.7 per cent while the group opened 16 new stores over and above 31 new stores opened in FY2016.

Investments in its digital infrastructure and customer engagement resulted in online sales growing by 41 per cent over and above the 149 per cent growth achieved in FY2016. Online sales now represent over 12 per cent of retail sales.

In its wholesale channel, the sports division in Designworks – which this year launched a centre of excellence that houses 105 graphic designers and designers – grew with strong performance in the Everlast boxing, footwear and fitness categories.

There are also big plans for PAS’ extensive stable of brands including the development of a new Review website on a tier 1 web platform; a refresh of loyalty programs for Review, JETS and Black Pepper; plus the launch of Review into China with Alibaba and the launch of selected company brands on Amazon Marketplace. Review will also launch concessions in David Jones stores in a bid to diversify its customer base.

Contrary to the fear spruiked by media on Amazon’s impact when it launches in Australia, PAS Group CEO Eric Morris said he views the US giant as a “great opportunity” with “very good operators…let’s get involved with it.”

Drawing comparisons with local marketplaces already operating including The Iconic and its own dropships run through Myer, Morris said Amazon is an important far-reaching marketplace opportunity.

“We certainly will look at registering to get up another of our brands involved and I see that as a lot of good opportunities,” he told Inside Retail.

Commenting on its launch of Review into Asia through Alibaba’s Tmall platform, Morris said there were several synergies with its value proposition and the Asian demographic.

“We’ve always known that we’ve got quite a high Asian demographic in our loyalty base, and have a very loyal customer at Review – it’s about 75 per cent of our total sales of which we know the Asian demographic like our product,” he explained.

Morris said it’s interesting to note “the amount of focus that the Australian media has on Amazon” while “not many people do talk about the “enormous size of Alibaba.”

“We are starting to work on things like accepting Alipay in some of our stores which is part of the ecosystem…and starting to work on things like WeChat and Weibo [popular social media platforms in Asia]. It’s something new for us but we’re excited about the opportunity there.”

Review could potentially be followed by one of PAS’ swimwear brands, though the Morris cautioned the retailer thinks the venture is “going to take some time so I’m not expecting fabulous results in 6-12 months time – this is a process and if it makes sense for us to put some of our other brands on that we’ll look at that as well.”

“The new stores, starting with Melbourne Central, are about truly reflecting the Review proposition and the amazing #reviewgirl customer, or dare I even call them a fan base,” explained Danny Lattouf, regional head of retail, Y&R ANZ who developed the concept for the new Review stores to Inside Retail.

“A Review boutique or concession now embodies the spirit of the brand – its values and behaviours which are communicated via product and people,” he said.

“This isn’t any different for what any retailer/brand should be doing, but for Review it’s essential because what is on offer here is a truly authentic proposition and one that should be celebrated. And with the #reviewgirl being so passionate about the brand, this space provides her with a better place to experience the exceptional product and service on offer.

“The most wonderful thing is that the current Review customer is an absolute fan of the brand. The fascinating thing about this is that they don’t know anything about the brand and its story, simply that they love the product and the service – herein lies the opportunity to tell that story and further connect with customers.”

During the year PAS Grop also acquired Bondi Bather, a small swimwear business located in Sydney area to complement its JETS business. Morris commented the brand is well positioned and a “quintessential Bondi brand” that will offer room for expansion locally and internationally in the company’s swimwear division.

Jessica Gomes has also been appointed as a brand ambassador for JETS, as PAS looks to leverage investment in its digital capabilities and a new store concept for the swimwear brand.

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