Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be *

Brands will need refreshing much more often if they are to thrive or even survive.

Cath Kidston owner Baring Private Equity Asia is selling the business, after it went into administration in 2020, and after a pre-pack insolvency deal failed to turn things around.

The loss of Chinese visitors to the UK cannot have helped but behind the one-off problems caused by the total loss of tourist income during the pandemic, and now inflation, lies a truth that brands cannot depend on the founder’s original idea for survival for as long as they used to.

This is not new insight; for those of us that remember Laura Ashley, there was a perfect example of a company that failed to move with the times, times in which trends rise and fall more quickly than ever and times in which competition comes fast from both other channels and other countries. Shein for instance is clearly redefining fast fashion in ways that are already putting Asos under pressure.

At Cath Kidston, part of the problem is the behaviour of its core customer cohorts. Traditional buyers are assaulted with a wave of new digital-first brands that are innovating in ways that Cath Kidston was simply too slow to match. In addition, the brand has almost no recognition among emerging Gen Z buyers. And even for millennials, there is a feeling that this is a brand for an older demographic. In other words, a niche brand within a niche could no longer find enough customers.

Ultimately, even nostalgia needs to move with the times.

* Attributed to WC Fields

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