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Clothing & fashion retail views by Verdict

Feb '06
Retail consultancy Verdict releases weekly views or retail.

Clothing, fashion and personal care - The owner of the QS and BWise discount stores, Hamsard 2353, has collapsed into administration, putting at risk 4,500 jobs from Scotland to Cornwall.

Administrator Grant Thornton has stated that Hamsard's losses have been running at £20mn a year for some time. The sum total of debts owed by the 343-store business has yet to be worked out. Christmas 2005, sales in January 2006 fell by 12 per cent.

George Davies is understood to be preparing a range of children's clothes for Marks and Spencer's Per Una fashion brand as the retailer strives to turnaround its childrenswear sales in the face of intensifying competition. In 2001 M&S was the largest childrenswear retailer in the UK, but Verdict Research currently places M&S in fifth place behind Next, Asda, Tesco and Woolworths.

French Connection will launch a £2mn advertising campaign tonight across TV, press and cinema with the strapline "fashion vs style." The campaign will run for two months. The adverts will feature two models fighting before a final passionate embrace - and are expected to continue the company's record for controversial advertising.

Gap is recruiting a design team from Europe to create products especially for Britain and France in a bid to stimulate sales. Gap's international underlying sales rose by 7 per cent in January, but on a full-year basis stagnated.

Somerfield's new private equity owners want to radically restructure its ailing Kwik Save chain, which is likely to result in the sale or closure of many of the 500 stores. Kwik Save is understood to have lost £40mn in 2005, and is currently being sured up by the more profitable Somerfield chain, which gains a new chief executive next month in the guise of Paul Mason, former chief executive of Matalan.

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