Private Brand Glamour: Joe Fresh.

joe-fresh1Take a look at this great article from the Toronto newspaper Globe & Mail it gives some great insight and background into the Loblaws Private Brand Joe Fresh. I previously wrote a post on the launch of the Joe Fresh makeup line, “Joe Fresh Makes Up Loblaw’s.” So this seven-page article is an interesting follow up.

Grocery-aisle glamour

How did a clothing line launched by Loblaws become Canada’s No. 2 brand? The creative mind behind Joe Fresh takes stock of its success-and the challenges it faces this year

Spring may be arriving for most of us, but in the fashion industry, the fall season has already begun.
These are some of the creative minds and companies that are shaping trends this year, in one of the toughest business environments ever

In a mere three years, Joe Fresh Style has leaped to No. 2 among Canada’s top clothing brands-while also serving as an unlikely silver lining in Loblaw Cos. Ltd.’s wider revitalization efforts.

Knock-offs of couture designs play well to today’s recessionista, and the upstart apparel line has also cashed in on growing demand for yoga and athletic wear, a move that appeals to both Loblaws’ core suburban customer and its sophisticated city shopper (Lululemon-like yoga pants: $24, a quarter of the price of the real thing).

Still, with less than $400 million in sales in 2007, Joe Fresh is a drop in Loblaw Co.’s annual $30.8 billion of revenues. And the apparel line likely won’t hit the company’s ambitious sales target of $1 billion by 2010, acknowledges creative director Joe Mimran. “I wouldn’t say it’s not realistic,” says Mimran, who co-founded the stylish Club Monaco fashion chain before moving on to the eponymous Joe Fresh. (Polo Ralph Lauren, an iconic brand in its own right, acquired Club Monaco in 1999.) “But it’s a tough number. You don’t want to throw a number out there and achieve it at any price.”

It’s also a tough year. Here’s a look at five issues Mimran will be dealing with as he prepares for the fall season-and aims for that elusive $1-billion target.


At its few stores in urban centres, Joe Fresh sells out of small sizes almost as soon as they hit the shelves. But at its more numerous suburban outlets, particularly in Western Canada, the smaller sizes can languish while extra-larges are snapped up. In B.C., smaller sizes are popular because of large numbers of Asian-Canadians, who tend to be diminutively built.

But the chain doesn’t have a sophisticated forecasting system to gauge individual store demand-or a customized inventory system that can select different mixes of sizes for individual stores. For now, each store gets the same assortment of smalls, mediums, larges and extra-larges, meaning some sizes are often unavailable, while others have to be marked down at the end of the season, which slices profit.

Loblaws needs to get the right systems in place to properly predict demand and serve the needs of each location, Mimran says. “We can only move as fast as the whole company moves on certain things. We still don’t have all the tools in our bag.”


Joe Fresh relies on overseas sourcing to keep its costs low. But these days, the economics of global shipments are tricky. The rapid drop in the value of the Canadian dollar against U.S. currency can boost sourcing expenses, since overseas purchases are made in greenbacks. And the Chinese market isn’t as stable as it once was-some suppliers have gone out of business, or are on the brink.

Already, about 5% of the Joe Fresh overseas orders aren’t making it to Canada, or are arriving late, Mimran says. “We started to see it in the fall. We’ve got to be vigilant to ensure we don’t have too many gaps occurring in our production.”

To shield himself from currency fluctuations, he’s looking at a hedging program to lock in the value of the dollar for a set time. “You’ve got to protect yourself and ensure you have the margins necessary so that you won’t get caught flat-footed.” As well, staff constantly uses their purchasing clout to renegotiate prices.

Read More at the Globe & Mail website.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.