Matalan calls in fashion experts to fight slump

Budget fashion retailer Matalan has hired a brace of fashion PR agencies to help it combat intense competition from major UK supermarkets.

Matalan has held two consumer PR reviews in ten months to revive sales, and has now hired Surgery PR to handle menswear lines and Stephanie Churchill PR to cover women's, children's and home products.

They replace three-and-a-half-year incumbent ZPR, which retained the account in November, but did not repitch after a review in July.

Founded 20 years ago as the original low-cost, out-of-town clothes retailer, the Lancashire-based operation has seen sales slide in the recent UK retail slump. Its problems come despite cutting costs, improving distribution channels and selling its wares 50 per cent cheaper than high-street retailers.

Figures for the first half of this year show like-for-like sales down by 6.4 per cent, while Asda and Tesco have clothing and homeware lines targeted directly at Matalan customers.

But with 190 stores spread throughout the UK, founder and chairman John Hargreaves has been able to keep the firm's share price reasonably steady in the knowledge rivals would pay handsomely to roll out a non-food store network on such a footprint.

Stephanie Churchill managing director Ann Rafter said Matalan was being 'aggressively attacked' by the supermarkets and the brief was to reinforce the chain as 'a fast fashion network'.

'Matalan can react to catwalk fashions and get new lines in-store in a matter of weeks,' she added.

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