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Superdry roller-coaster loses some of its momentum

It’s too early to dismiss SuperGroup as a one-hit wonder – but fashion moves fast

The last three weeks of January, after the sale season mania faded, were a shocker for many high street retailers. Even so, you might have wagered that SuperGroup, after a decent Christmas, would defy the trend.

The Superdry brand may soon suffer from overexposure but surely, you might have supposed, there was enough momentum in the business to ride over a few January bumps.

It seems not. Like-for-like sales were down about 3% in the final three weeks of last month, a statistic that has ripped an 18% hole in the share price today. Same-store sales were still up 4.4% in the past quarter but the “variable” performance overall means profits for the year are expected to arrive near the bottom of the market’s £50m-£54m guess. In other words, it’s a mini profits warning to complement last year’s warning about warehouse problems.

Those punters who had bet it was safe to re-board the Superdry roller-coaster (floated at 500p in March 2010; £18 a year later; 450p last autumn) have had a shock. A good Christmas carried the price back to 700p, but today’s reading 580p. Superdry has become a store of surprises.

Its founder, Julian Dunkerton, remains cheerful. He points to January discounting by rivals such as Jack Wills and Hollister and says he is more positive about prospects for the next 12 months than he has been for a couple of years. He says an overhaul of the sourcing arrangements will deliver better-quality clothing at higher profit margins and lower prices for shoppers.

He may be right, but the real question is whether the Superdry brand, after a couple of sensational years, requires reinvention, rather than a mere freshening-up. It surely does. Even if there were special factors behind January’s weak sales, the moment is approaching when Japanese-themed logos lose their power to shift clobber.

The world always moves on, as FCUK knows. Burberry, further up the fashion ladder, showed how it can be done – it’s hard to spot the checks these days.

It’s too early to dismiss SuperGroup as a one-hit wonder – it’s a more substantial business than that – but fashion moves very fast, and SuperGroup must not be left behind. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds