Topshop (originally Top Shop) is a British multinational fashion retailer of clothing, shoes, make-up and accessories. It has around 500 shops worldwide – of which some 300 are in the UK – plus online operations in a number of its markets. Its current CEO is Ian Grabiner; and is part of the Arcadia Group, which is controlled by Sir Philip Green.
Topshop started as a brand extension of the department store Peter Robinson in the 1960s and originally sold fashion by young British designers, such as Mary Quant and Stirling Cooper. Peter Robinson was a women's fashion chain that had been acquired by Burton in 1946. Topshop was founded in 1964 as Peter Robinson's Top Shop, a youth brand within the Sheffield branch and also had a large department in the Oxford Street store. This was high fashion for the "young and different generation" as The Times put it in 1965, and the department stocked garments by names such as Mary Quant and Gerald McCann. By 1966, it had a branch in the Peter Robinson store in Norwich.
Peter Robinson's Top Shop buyer Diane Wadey had an eye for young talent and introduced Royal College of Art graduate Jane Whiteside to Jeff Cooper and Ronnie Stirling – the Stirling Cooper brand they created soon had its own sections in Top Shop stores in London and Sheffield, as well as being stocked in Peter Robinson stores in Norwich and Bristol. Other brands stocked at Top Shop included Jeff Banks, French Connection and Radley Cooper.
Launch of separate chain store
In 1973, parent company Burton Group launched a major expansion of its womenswear division, splitting Top Shop by Peter Robinson into two chains to be known as Peter Robinson and Top Shop. It was announced that while Peter Robinson would target the over 25s market, Top Shop would focus on the age range from 13 to 24, with Ralph Halpern directing the new venture. By 1974, Peter Robinson had been reduced from 22 stores to six, while Top Shop was developing independently (still retaining the one co-branded store in Oxford Street) and was described as "highly profitable". Its key retail rivals included Miss Selfridge and the Way In boutique arm of Harrods. Within two years, Top Shop had 55 standalone branches, with more to come according to an article in The Times. Fashion editor Prudence Glynn described it as having a: "sharp definition of purpose". It made profits of £1m that year. By 1978, Top Shop accounted for a third of Burton's operating profits.
Also in 1978, Burton embarked on a drive to win a larger share of the men's fashion market in the midst of declining sales of men's tailoring, launching the Top Man brand along similar lines to its women's retail arm. It was described by an executive as: "more of a 'brother to Top Shop than a son of Burton'." The following year, Burton announced sales and profits up by 30 percent in womenswear, with Top Man also being cited as highly profitable. By the start of the 1980s, the brand was being referred to as Topshop.
1980s and beyond
In the 1980s, Topshop struggled to maintain its profile as a fashion brand, but by the late 1990s it began undergoing a revival. This turnaround is often credited to the promotion of Jane Shepherdson as brand director. Having begun her career as a buyer, she rose through the ranks at the company. When she took on brand direction, Topshop had an annual profit of £9 million; by 2005 it was making over £100 million annually.
Under her tenure, Topshop became a key sponsor of London Fashion Week, sponsoring its Newgen arm that supports emerging British designers from 2002 and the Fashion East initiative – which acts as a bridge between London's fashion colleges and the Newgen scheme – a year later. This sponsorship continues and since 2005 it has been part of the London Fashion Week catwalk schedule.
As of 2012, it is part-owned by a US-based private equity group.
In 2015, Topshop started collaborating with the online retailer Zalando and began selling their merchandise in the stores. Advertisements featuring model Cara Delevingne were broadcast in Germany, Switzerland and France.
Topshop has been among the UK chain stores to work with high-fashion brands on capsule collections. In 1994, it launched a collection with Red or Dead. It continued to work with designer talent, such as former Clements Ribeiro assistant Markus Lupfer – described in 1999 as "so hot he's practically steaming" – also working with, among others, Hussein Chalayan, Tristan Webber and Tracey Boyd. Typically, such ranges sold out quickly, and attracted column inches in the fashion press.
In May 2007, British supermodel Kate Moss, designed her first collection for the brand. The appointment of Moss was announced just before the departure of Shepherdson for Whistles. In the same year, artist Stella Vine designed a limited edition range inspired by her artworks. These included T-shirts, vest tops, and T-shirt dresses, with the labels designed in pink glitter. The Guardian commented that "the fact that the range of T-shirts she has recently designed for TopShop – emblazoned with slogans like Breaking Up With Her Boyfriend – are flying out, speaks volumes for her public support."
In 2014, Beyoncé signed a deal to launch an activewear brand with Topshop. The 50-50 venture is called Parkwood Topshop Athletic Ltd and is scheduled to launch its first dance, fitness and sports ranges in autumn 2015. In November 2015, it was revealed that the brand will be launched in April 2016.
Current operation and franchises
In December 2012, Philip Green sold a 25 per cent stake in Topshop and Topman to the US-based private equity group Leonard Green and Partners for US$805 million. Under the terms of the deal, Arcadia retained Topshop's flagship Oxford Street store (said to be worth between £400 and £500 million). Green said that the deal would enable Topshop to speed up its expansion, particularly within the US.
Topshop began planning its expansion to the US in the mid-2000s and was tipped to open in New York as early as 2007. Currently it operates via a website and sells in Nordstrom stores. A small number of wholly owned stores are located in major cities, with more store openings planned. On 5 November 2014 it opened a flagship store in New York City, located on Fifth Avenue. The store is the largest international site, and second only to the Oxford Street, London store in square footage. This is its second store in New York City, the first having opened on Broadway in 2009.
Topshop announced a five-year international expansion plan in early 2011, planning to open new shops across Asia, Australia and the US as well as seeking opportunities in Europe. Although the Japanese flagship stores launched in 2006, all of the 5 stores in Japan have shuttered its stores in 2015. In 2013, parent group Arcadia began stepping up its franchise deals, announcing a planned 150 new store openings with partners in Canada, Australia and Vietnam, to include Topshop and Topman stores.
Topshop expanded into Australia in 2011, with stores in New South Wales and Victoria. In 2013 it opened a store in Brisbane's CBD in a location previously occupied by Borders. In November 2012, Topshop launched its first store in South Africa. In April 2013 a Topshop-Topman store launched in Cape Town, at the V&A Waterfront. On 24 October 2013, Topshop opened a concession at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, its first outlet in France.
In 2014, Topshop opened a flagship store in Auckland and a nationwide chain of shops. The company has had a presence in New Zealand since 2010, opening a small concession within a department store in 2010. Located on Auckland's North Shore, the flagship shop sold out of some of its ranges before it had opened.
Stores by country
Number Topshop stores on 30 July 2016
- Oxford Circus, London - The flagship Topshop store in the UK is 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2) and covers five floors. The shop attracts an average of 28,000 customers each day.
- Fifth Avenue, New York City – The Topshop store, which opened in November 2014, is located opposite Saks Fifth Avenue and comprises 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of retail space.
- Liverpool One, Liverpool – In 2009, Topshop opened its first Manhattan-style concept store in the UK at Liverpool One. The site provides 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) of retail area and includes a Topman, hair salon and two shoe stores alongside the Topshop branch.
- Briggate, Leeds – In 2012, a 31,000 square feet (2,900 m2) store on Briggate opened, becoming the third-largest Topshop in the UK. It is part of the Trinity Leeds shopping development.
- Victoria Square, Belfast - In 2008 Topshop Victoria Square, Belfast opened its doors as one of the largest stores in the new shopping centre development at 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2); the largest Topshop in Ireland.
Protests and controversy
Topshop has been criticised for its overseas sourcing policies and its tax arrangements. In December 2007, the Edinburgh branch was targeted by student campaigning network People & Planet for allegedly using cotton picked by "slave labour".
In December 2010, some 200 campaigners staged a sit-in that closed Topshop's Oxford Circus store, and in Brighton a number of protestors glued themselves to the branch windows. Other high streets in towns and cities across Britain saw similar protests in a day of action by UK Uncut against corporate tax arrangements. Two months later, police arrested a man for writing "pay your taxes" in washable ink on the wall of a Topshop branch in Colchester.
In July 2013, the singer and pop star Rihanna won a lawsuit against Topshop to prevent it using her image unofficially on a T-shirt. The lawsuit was launched on the premise that Topshop customers would assume Rihanna endorsed the company, that would lead to a false representation of her celebrity image and increased tensions with her then endorsement deal with River Island, a high-street rival. Judge Justice Birss agreed that customers would likely to be deceived into believing it had the singer's approval. Topshop launched an appeal to the High Court, accusing Rihanna of wrongfully advocating that: "only a celebrity may ever market his or her own character" and Judge Justice Briss of misreading the law on "celebrity merchandising". The appeal was rejected unanimously at the Court of Appeal in London on 22 January 2015
In July 2015, Topshop has been criticized for its mannequins judged too skinny. After that a customer complained about that on Facebook, the fashion chain has stopped using its tall and skinny female store mannequins.