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The BBC's Radio Five Live interviews John Hoerner
People need to get used to the idea that supermarkets are a great place to buy clothes
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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Supermarkets raise clothes stakes
Supermarket logos
The UK's biggest supermarkets are stepping up their efforts to add clothing to their customers' shopping lists.

Market leader Tesco has put its clothing in the hands of John Hoerner, the former boss of Arcadia, owner of High Street chains including Burtons, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins.

Meanwhile Asda, which led the way in the supermarket clothing revolution, has announced that it is to employ an extra 2,000 staff to help expand its George range of clothes.

Traditional High Street clothes retailers have already felt the pinch from the supermarkets which can compete from a lower cost base.

Larger clothes sizes

Tesco has doubled the size of its clothes retail business to 250m in the last five years, now offering its semi-formal Fred and Florence range in just over 350 out of its 692 stores.

Number of stores selling clothes
George, Asda - 215
Fred & Florence, Tesco - 350
Jeff & Co, Sainsbury's - 19
But this effort is dwarfed by Asda, which claims that its George range generates 600m a year, even though just 13% of Asda shoppers head for the clothes shelves.

The expansion of George clothes will include a bid to attract people from the younger and older age range.

Asda will also introduce larger womenswear up to size 20 in clothes and 42DD in bras.

Sainsbury's best

"The biggest challenge is that people need to get used to the idea that supermarkets are a great place to buy clothes," Tesco's John Hoerner told BBC Radio Five Live.

We're still a little way from people buying their wedding dress at Tesco

John Hoerner
Sainsbury's - which has said that its primary focus is on quality food - also has its own designer, Jeff Banks, to help push sales.

But only 19 stores out of 340 offer the Jeff & Co exclusive range of clothes, although this is soon to be increased to 25.

"First and foremost, we're about quality food, but if we do offer non-food products, we realise that they must be of a high quality," a Sainsbury's spokesman told the BBC.

Serious limitations

But there are obvious limitations to the supermarkets' foray into clothes.

Floor space is one problem, as is a lack of clothing facilities.

And few observers think that supermarkets could ever become a serious contender in the more up-market clothing department.

"We're still a little way from people buying their wedding dress at Tesco," John Hoerner told the BBC.

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