There was a time when Ted Baker was a go-to brand for young professionals across Britain, offering clothes that tended to fall on the smart side of smart-casual.
Its suits will have seen many a job interview or christening, its dresses will have been worn on Friday nights out with colleagues, its hoodies snuggled into during many a hungover morning-after. But with the rise of a number of stylish brands all catering for a similar crowd – and the inability of Ted Baker to keep pace in terms of both design and price – it has long since fallen out of public favour.
Perhaps the biggest pitfall for Ted Baker is price. With consumers’ budgets squeezed and other brands offering cheaper and more stylish alternatives, Ted Baker’s prices – from men’s two-piece suits at upwards of £420 to women’s polo neck jumpers for about £140 – feel out of step with the market.
Since Ted Baker was founded in 1987, and especially since it had a “moment” in the very early noughties, competition has proliferated. For fashion-forward customers there are Zara and Mango; Whistles has several bases – from occasion wear to accessories – covered; Uniqlo is there for staples; and Reiss sells office attire at high-street prices.
The Scandinavian brands such as Cos and Arket, which now pepper the UK high street, offering a very on-trend brand of minimalism, will have hit Ted Baker hard. The more fun side of Scandi-style is covered for women by & Other Stories, with its party frocks and statement skirts.
As well as price, part of the problem also lies with the brand’s rigidity. In an age where Instagram has accelerated trends and demanded that fashion doesn’t so much move with the times as lead them, Ted Baker has kept on churning out the same kinds of clothes, which makes it feel staid.
Ted Baker customers, however, have changed. Where once they lapped up the smartish look the brand was adept at, they will have shifted their wardrobe to reflect the impact of athleisure, streetwear and the general casualisation of fashion.
Despite some nods to current trends – sequined party dresses and croc-effect western leather boots – the majority of Ted Baker’s offering feels outdated. And garments aiming at the more fashion-savvy consumer often miss the mark – see its leopard-print bodycon dress for an example. Animal prints may be headline news but in an age of billowing silhouettes, bodycon instantly, unironically, takes it back to the noughties.
The world of online shopping has had an impact, too, bringing brands without bricks-and-mortar homes to the UK consumer. Ganni, yet another Scandi brand with one branch in central London, has proved a hit with many of the women who might once have considered going to Ted Baker for a work top or pair of leather boots; Kitri and Instagram favourite Rixo do party frocks that feel right for now. All will have chipped away at the Ted Baker base.
It can also be argued that by expanding its homewares, luggage and kidswear offerings, Ted Baker has spread itself too thin. The “new arrivals” section of its website offers evidence of its broad, sometimes bizarre offerings: a metallic polar-bear money box for £35.