It seems that portfolio focus is not just for consumer brands like Coke, covered in this recent post. Fashion brand Burberry has also announced that it is simplifying its brand portfolio. "By the end of 2016 Burberry Prosorum, London and Brit will be no more; all three labels are to be consolidated under one simple name – Burberry," according to reports here.
What could be behind this move?
1. Reducing complexity for consumers
I've always struggled to get my head round the three different Burberry "sub-brands". Go on the Burberry website and these labels are not immediately visible. Click onto the iconic trench coat section and you get a rather bewildering selection of products, organised under the three labels. At first sight, the coats in each range look pretty similar to me: spot the difference below. And the three labels are all written in the same typeface. Only when you click on a coat and see the price do you get a bit of difference, with the Brit label being made of cotton, not gabardine, and so quite a bit cheaper.
The only place I finally got a clear explanation of the three labels was in the Burberry annual report. This explains that, in theory, Prosorum is the top of the range, "fashion forward" niche proposition. London is typical weekday workwear. And Brit is casual weekend wear. However, as most shoppers won't bother to read the annual report, the range was clearly ripe for simplification.
2. Reducing complexity for the business
Not only does portfolio simplification potentially make shopping easier for consumers, it also has benefits for the business. Removing the three separate sub-brands should simplify multiple processes, from communication to the website to in-store merchandising. This simpler approach should also save time and energy spent debating which label a new product design should sit under. After all, the lines are blurring between formal ann casual, between weekday and weekend, and between work and leisure, as CEO Christopher Bailey discussed here, "The behaviour of the luxury customer is evolving, their style is more fluid and this is reflected in the way they shop."
Interestingly, the process of simplification has also been applied to the bi-annual runway collections. Breaking with convention, Burberry will show men’s and women’s collections at the same time, reducing its four annual runway events to two.
3. Focus on the core brand
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this portfolio rationalisation puts the focus back on the core Burberry brand. Rather than product innovation or communication being fragmented between the sub-brand and the Burberry brand, every activity is now pulling in the same direction. "By unifying our three lines under one label we can offer a much more consistent experience of Burberry's collections," explained Christopher Bailey.
In conclusion, by simplifying its portfolio Burberry should reduce complexity for both consumers and the business, and more effectively build its core brand. It will be interesting to see the effects of this move in 2017 and beyond.