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LONDON – Arcadia brands such as Topshop and Miss Selfridge “face huge challenges” in the months ahead if the results of a new poll of shoppers are anything to go by. In the wake of allegations of sexual and racial harassment by British businessman, Sir Philip Green, a YouGov poll has shown the initial impact of the headlines on Green’s most popular store, Topshop. Topshop’s ‘Buzz Score’ – whether a person has heard something about a brand, and if so, if it was positive or negative – among the general public has declined from 0 to -7. Among women aged 18-34, the drop is more significant, from +14 to +3.

Stephan Shakespeare, founder and global CEO of YouGov, said: “Of course, while the public can notice negative headlines about a company figurehead, this does not automatically lead to a change in opinion about brand itself. In this case, in the space of a few days Topshop’s Impression score among the general public has fallen from +7 to +2. Among women aged 18-34 its score has dropped from +25 to +20.”

While not as sizeable, these falls are still significant. It also needs to be factored in that this story could run for a considerable time yet, with media outlets inevitably keen to extract maximum mileage from it.

Shakespeare added: “Sir Philip has built a retail empire over the last few decades, with the jewel in his crown Topshop supplemented by brands such as Burton and Miss Selfridge. He had however, attracted criticism as a result of his involvement in the decline of BHS, and the subsequent pension deficit.

“While the news is certainly harmful in the short term, YouGov data has also shown that there are longer-term trends that have impacted on Topshop, and indeed many other Arcadia stores. That is the rise of fast-fashion online companies such as Boohoo and ASOS, which have successfully appealed to Topshop’s core demographic. Both brands have significantly higher Value scores than Topshop among women aged 18-34, for example.

“With this in mind, even if Topshop was to emerge relatively unscathed from this period, it would still face huge challenges in the months ahead.”

Editor’s comment: These allegations have come at precisely the wrong time for Arcadia. They are also inevitably being jumped upon by the #MeToo movement, which has captured hearts and minds among a broad demographic. They also come as a host of ultra-fast fashion brands are stealing Topshop’s thunder.

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