Supermarkets and super apps: Oasis fashions the changes

It is all change at Oasis, with CEO Liz Evans departing for Fat Face and current COO Hash Ladha set to step into her shoes when she makes the move away from the women’s fashion retailer next year.

And that period of transition is reflected in two major announcements made by the group in recent weeks, including the plans for the business to bring fashion ranges to a UK supermarket for the first time through the initiation of a partnership with Sainsbury’s.

Five Sainsbury’s supermarkets will include Oasis’s fashion ranges, through a concession model, as the grocer continues its evolution to become more department-store-esque in its offering. Sainsbury’s already has similar partnerships with Clarks and Specsavers, and has recently indicated a push towards more beauty services and product ranges in its aisles.

Two Oasis concessions will be available to customers in time for Christmas at the existing Sainsbury’s in Sydenham, south London, and Sainsbury’s Selly Oak near Birmingham when it opens later in 2018, while the other three will appear in the new year.

“This is about presenting the Oasis product proposition and brand experience to Sainsbury’s customers,” explained CEO designate Ladha.

“The customer demographic of both brands is very similar and therefore it is a natural strategic partnership.”

New mobile applications

In keeping with the Ladha’s history at the business – he was multichannel director of Aurora Fashions, which once ran Oasis, Karen Millen, Warehouse and Coast – the changes the fashion retailer is going through are of a physical and digital nature. On the digital side, in September it announced it will be launching a new mobile app to drive further customer engagement, and sister company Warehouse will be doing likewise.

Ladha said the fundamental reason for the investment in new mobile app commerce capability, provided by Poq, was down to personalising the digital customer experience.

“We wanted to transform the way in which shoppers engage with us on mobile – moving beyond what mobile web has to offer,” he commented.

“Working with a SaaS provider, which offers out-of-the-box features, like ‘app stories’, [an Instagram stories-like feature] and in-app GIFs will make for a more exciting and engaging shopping experience for our customers.”

“We wanted to transform the way in which shoppers engage with us on mobile – moving beyond what mobile web has to offer"Hash Ladha, COO, Oasis

For Warehouse, the new app – set to be released in the coming weeks – will be intrinsically wrapped up in the retailer’s loyalty and VIP scheme, using app analytics to segment high-value customers and reward them through personalised in-app offers.

Alixandra Burn, head of digital at Warehouse, remarked: “Our app customers are strong brand advocates, and we want to be able to give them a shopping platform that had a point of difference to mobile web."

She added: "It’s also important that we are able to update the platform easily and on a regular basis. We wanted to work with a partner that could provide apps that are quick and easy to update and are feature-rich and Poq can do just that.”

Things are fast changing in UK fashion's mid-market, and the developments at Oasis and Warehouse come as former stable partners Karen Millen and Coast go through restructuring processes of their own. Coast fell into administration at the start of October, with all stores closing but its concessions transferring over to Karen Millen in a pre-pack administration deal.

Karen Millen itself announced last week that it is putting 100 head office jobs into consultation, following the Coast concession acquisition.

All these changes are indicative of the attempts of Kaupthing Bank’s administrators and the owners of Aurora Fashions, to separate the individual businesses. Karen Millen was spun off from the group in 2012, but the ownership structure is a known stumbling block in the ultimate sale of the group to an altogether independent party.