The CEO, Mike Ashley Confesses to Lack of Appreciation for Flannels’ Luxury

Michael Murray, who took over as CEO of Frasers Group from his father-in-law a year ago, has been working to reinvent the company in his own way. The Frasers Group includes 60 stores under the Flannels brand, which Murray is targeting specifically to a “new luxury and aspirational” customer. Despite being heavily involved in the business, Mike Ashley, Murray’s father-in-law and founder of Sports Direct, doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Murray on Flannels. While Ashley finds it “ridiculous” to spend so much on luxury clothing, Murray believes it is relevant to consumers, particularly young adults between the ages of 18 to 30.

Frasers Group’s best-known brand is still Sports Direct, which Ashley founded in 1982 and developed into a publicly traded company. Its empire has since rebranded as Frasers in 2019 and now includes Jack Wills,, Evans Cycles, House of Frasers, and Flannels.

Murray, who was not an employee of Sports Direct before becoming CEO, wants to be remembered for transforming the business from a discount sports retailer to Europe’s largest and most ambitious retailer. While Flannels is his “pride and joy,” Murray admits it doesn’t scale as well as SportsDirect’s international expansion, especially in Asia.

Flannels has been the biggest driver of Frasers Group’s growth in recent results, earning just over £530m in the six months to the end of October last year, up nearly 25% year-on-year. Murray believes Flannels is still “riding the wave of growth” despite the cost-of-living crisis, with its target market being young adults who have been indoctrinated by social media to admire expensive products but are still living at home and prefer to spend their disposable income on health, fitness, and clothing.

While Ashley still plays a significant role in the business, optimizing Frasers Group’s warehouses and supply chains, Murray hopes to leave his transformative legacy on the company and continue to make Flannels a relevant and successful brand for its target market.

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