Next has been around for more than four decades and is one of the largest UK clothing retailers in the world. This business was founded in 1964 by Joseph Hepworth, and it has grown into a monumental business today. Knowing Next history will help you understand the brand’s journey and how it can achieve such an aggressive expansion that makes its revenues explode. This article will review the Next history while touching on the brand's marketing strategy that makes them such a success. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Next History – How It Began
Next didn’t start under its name. Before Next came to be, it was known for an entire century as Hepworth. This thriving chain of men’s clothing shops offered a strong line of made-to-measure and ready-made suits. However, it wasn’t till 1982 that Hepworth’s shops took the form of Next Format. Hepworth was founded in 1884 by Joseph Hepworth. He was the son of a cloth dresser who followed in his father’s footsteps while still a schoolboy.
Joseph worked as a part-time woolen cloth dresser in a local mill. According to Joseph Hepworth, the working conditions at the local mill were quite appalling. He always felt like his education was neglected because he was often too tired to study when he had the opportunity. However, he tried making up for it with his business nous. After a few years in different mill jobs, he decided to move to Leeds due to the thriving hub of the economy and their strong tailoring traditions. He wanted to start his own clothing business, but he chose to do this with his brother as a partner.
After a year of working together, Hepworth struck out on his own and set up a workshop to create ready-made clothing. It was quite a struggle for Madden, but he survived and expanded. He had over 500 employees within a few years, and his eldest son Norris had joined him in the firm. These two were the first clothing manufacturer to lead the development of a chain of retail shops where they market the clothes designed in their workshop. Over time, other cloth manufacturers followed their lead. The shops were elegant and gave the ordinary men a taste of luxury whenever they bought a new suit. This chain of stores proved quite successful, and by 1891, the company had over 107 stores across the country and 2000 workers.
The Company’s Growth
Although most people believed that Hepworth’s success was due to his provision of low prices, it was because of his marketing strategies. Hepworth was known for giving his workers a living wage as he didn’t forget his humble beginnings. Hepworth became a limited liability company in 1981. The company changed its name to the Hardy Amies Tailoring Shop, associating it with the Hardy Amies. It also opened a new production center in Ashington and expansion remained strong in the company.
However, sales became lackluster, and in a bid to revive sales, the company bought a womenswear chain called ‘Kendall & Sons of Leicester.’ This chain had over 79 shops which Hepworth used as a springboard for a new chain of shops called Next. This is the point where Next history as a brand began.
The company brought in George Davis to help nurture the new womenswear line. The first Next shop opened in 1982, and the menswear line followed in 1984. This chain expanded with the acquisition of Lord John shops. The first year of Next brought in a turnover of over £82 million, and by the end of 1982, more stores had been converted to the concept. Next continued to bring steady growth to the company, and by the end of 1984, Hepworth had 52 Next for Men shops. That same year, the company decided to expand the Next retail concept. To achieve this, it opened the first multi-department Next retail store. This features a line of menswear and womenswear.
The success of Next led to the replacement of the remaining Hepworth stores with Next for Men. The company also used this name in their new locations, and by the end of 1985, there were already 130 Next for Men stores.
The Full Takeover of Next
The company soon expanded into a new product category in 1985 with a Next interior concept. This featured home furnishings under the Next brand name, marking a unique point in Next history. It was also included in the many multi-department stores now available. The first Next store that offers shoppers all the company’s products opened in 1985 in Regent Street, London. At this point, Next had almost replaced all Hepworth & Son stores. However, the change was made official in 1986 when the company adopted Next Plc's new name.
The company’s first act as Next Plc was to acquire a mail-order business. This acquisition allowed Next to enter the catalog sales channel. During this period, Next was undergoing massive expansion. By 1986, Davis led the company on a diversification journey that maximized its revenues. Next also acquired jewelry chains and several other companies. Unfortunately, the increase in sales did not mean an increase in profits. Because of rising costs, heavy debts, and new competition, Next profits began to slump into losses by 1989.
Next’s Focus in the 1990s
After a boardroom battle in Next history, George Davies lost his job, and David Jones replaced him. The new CEO led Next through several streamlining operations that brought back sales. First, the non-core operations were sold, including the broadcasting investment and the jewelry store. Then, while shedding the non-core operations, Next streamlined its remaining product lines. The company’s restructuring led to the closure of more than half of Next stores. By 1992, Next was back in business, and it embarked on more expansion activities. During this period, the company’s main focus was Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Steve Madden company decided to move its focus to the international market and used different approaches. The company started with the franchising approach. Then, it partnered with many local businesses that knew how the market worked. In the United States, Next entered a joint venture partnership to start importing the Next brand.
The first Next store in the US was in Boston, and it was followed quickly by four more. The brand also launched a store in France and Belgium as part of its expansion tactics. Next also sought to branch out from its retail brand and soon entered into a joint venture with intimate brands. The company also moved beyond retail into Ventura customer service and call center service providers.
Annual sales continued to increase for Next with the expansion, and so did the company’s net profit. The total number of stores owned by Steve Madden is over 300 stores. To date, Next is focusing on its international expansion.
Next History – The Company’s Steps to Success
It’s not been easy for Next, but the company continues to stay up despite the pandemic and other struggles. If you’re wondering how Next can stay buoyant, you’re not alone. This section identifies what Next is doing right and what other retailers can learn from them.
The Company’s Not Scared of Change
Next history shows it is a company that continues to access what it has to offer. The company has changed its name and business settings over the years. In 2014, Next went through an overhaul to deal with its reputational damage. However, the company continues to adapt rather than resist change when it comes. This feature is why Next remains buoyant even after the problems with the lockdown.
A Mix of Clicks and Bricks
Next’s origin is in the mail order, and the company capitalized on that during the digital age. Next rebranded its directory to a digital platform in 2018. The company has continued to go from level to level during this period. It enjoys seamless operations because it already had a sophisticated online presence before the pandemic. This meant the company could easily offset the loss of sales from the store by making online shopping easy. Navigation on the website is easy as users can quickly locate any product.
Expanded Product Range
Another reason why Next remains so successful is that it continues to expand its product range. This allows Next to cater to both old and new shoppers. The company has millions of shoppers in different age ranges. Next is now like a curated marketplace. Buyers can shop for the brand’s products and over 500 third-party brands' products. In addition, the company is continually increasing its products and acquiring shares in other brands that could help them increase its number of acquisitions.
Responsive and Accessible Business
Apart from offering customers a multichannel experience, the company also provides remote communication with customers. As other businesses try to expand their customer service to different sales models, Next focuses on expanding across various channels. Next’s focus is to meet customers where they want to be with excellent customer service. The company is also building its customer service model around the needs of customers who are making remote orders. Next recognizes the importance of social media platforms in the customer’s life. Therefore, it owns these media channels so it can be available to respond quickly to the problems of customers who might be sharing their problems for the world to see
Next understand how strong the voice of the customer is on social media and how it can be advantageous if harnessed correctly. Social media enables direct communication between a business and its customer. With every issue you solve for a customer on social media, you make them a champion of your company. To harness the power of digital platforms, the company also partners with many celebrities to help widen its appeal to its target audience. An example is the Emma Willis collaboration that let the long-padded jacket be sold out almost immediately.
Next has grown and evolved over the years to become one of the biggest fashion retailers in the world. Steve Madden Company is known for its vast range of products and excellent customer service. It also provides a seamless transaction from store to digital platforms for its customers. Although the company has experienced several challenges over the years, it continues to grow and adapt to the changing world.