UK retailer Jigsaw has left Australia to focus on its home market. In 2016, it bought back the Australian license from Webster Holdings. In this story following the acquisition, CEO at the time Peter Ruis revealed the new vision it embraced leading to 2021.

Jigsaw CEO Peter Ruis moves quickly - and re-acquiring the domestic rights to trade Jigsaw is no exception.

“It was an amicable conversation,” he explains. “We were speaking for a year, then coming up towards Christmas, we expressed our willingness to take the license back.

“Just before Christmas, Webster decided it wanted to concentrate on Marcs and David Lawrence. By February, it was finalised. When these things are amicable, they are much easier.”

The acquisition follows a solid trading period for the UK High Street retailer, which posted a 19% rise in sales for the five weeks to January 2.

For Ruis, quality products and disciplined pricing are the hallmarks of success.

He wants to bring this vision to Australia.

“We’ve had incredible success over the last couple of years and we’ve become the fastest growing fashion business in the UK.

“At the same time, we’ve had this wonderful 25 year history in Australia through our licensing partner.

“We felt a lot of untapped opportunity because over the years, the license side of the brand has become very different from the parent brand.

“In the digital, globalised world of 2016, it doesn’t make sense as it did in the 90s where brands were separated by territory.

“Whatever the history in Australia, we would want a global brand.

“A brand which has a rich history in European sourcing and a certain type of look.

“The Australian product was just not consistent with this.”

While previous collections for the market have been manufactured in China, the autumn/winter 2016 range applies a direct sourcing model.

This means ranges are sourced from supplier factories across the UK and Europe, and pieces are designed in-house at the London studio.

Ruis maintains no price increases will be passed on as a result of the changes.

“It will be a bit cheaper actually. We’re probably quite competitive on margin as a brand, but we are very full price.

“We don’t do any sales or discounts outside of two end-of-season sales each year.

“We don’t do in-season discounting or a blanket 20% discount for online.”

The supply chain will also be a hybrid model of seasonal and non-seasonal drops.

“We’re already in California, South Africa and Dubai,” Ruis explains.

“We don’t have a one dimensional model for these markets.

“Australia will see a range of current, future and a little bit of previous collections.

“The beauty of previous collections is we can only send in the best sellers here.

“While it’s still warm in Australia, our number one seller so far is a sheepskin shearling.

“It’s interesting. Customers always want the special things, whatever the weather.”

Price points for the current winter collection start at $50 to $60 on jersey, with silk tops at $175 and dresses ranging between $200 and $350.

However, womenswear is just one part of the equation.

“We are a really big accessories brand,” Ruis says. “It’s 20% of our business in the UK and then we’ve got our menswear and childrenswear businesses that are also very strong. We need to work that out at a store level.”

In negotiating with Webster Holdings, Jigsaw acquired five of the 19 Jigsaw locations nationally.

These include sites across Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne, with Perth and Brisbane losing a presence.

Even still, existing locations can not house the entire product offer. Stand-alone sites, flagship locations and concessions are possible alternatives to facilitate all Jigsaw ranges.

“There is a great opportunity with the concession business too,” Ruis says. “We’ve shut some of the old stores and there’s a lot of great Jigsaw customers that would love the opportunity to buy it.

“I think it would be fair to say that all the international buyers are aware of Jigsaw in the UK, its success and would like to bring it into Australia.

“I hope we can come to an agreement in the next couple of months.”

Australian revenue has been around $25 million a year and further store locations will help to grow this, Ruis says.

The brand currently has around 90 stores globally and 40 concession sites.

“We’d probably be looking at slightly different store footprint to what we’ve had in Australia. We’ve been very much just in the commercial shopping malls.

“We’d like to take back the fashion credibility as a brand and go to some more interesting places where we can get character into the shop.”

This rollout will be supplemented by e-commerce sales.

A transactional platform has just relaunched in Australia, with a unique address running off the same platform as the UK and US.

Online sales represent close to double that of a bricks-and-mortar store.

Ruis is confident of the omnichannel offer, predicting a more traditional hurdle for the future.

“It sounds ridiculous but Australia is a long way away and that will be a key challenge for us moving forward.

“We have the ability to run America with a time gap of five to seven hours versus here which is 11 hours, which is a huge difference.

“We just have to ensure that across the business, we are as quick and responsive as we can be. It’s easy to underestimate that.

“I think if we do a good job, there’s a huge opportunity for a market as vibrant as Australia.”

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