The founder of Boden has openly criticized his attempt to take the clothing brand in a trendier direction, describing himself as a ‘complete nitwit’ and acknowledging his mistakes. Johnnie Boden, the head of the 22-year-old brand, admitted that the brand’s shift away from its more conservative and ‘mumsy’ image led to its current struggles, including significant losses of £4.4 million in the UK over the past year. The company’s boss, an Eton and Oxford graduate, is now introducing changes to bring the brand back to its traditional roots. This includes reviving its print catalogue and temporarily discontinuing its menswear collection. While the brand gained popularity among celebrities like Amanda Holden and Sienna Miller, and newer generations of royals, it neglected its original customer base. The brand experienced substantial success in the US in recent years, driven by celebrity endorsements, but its attempt to adopt a ‘trendier’ image may have contributed to its decline.
The Telegraph reported that in 2022, the brand, founded by Johnnie Boden in 1991, saw a significant increase in sales from £111 million to £134 million, primarily in the UK. However, the brand’s UK profits were overshadowed by its US success, where it reported record profits in 2022. The brand’s recent shift in image may have alienated younger UK consumers, who associate the brand with an outdated catalogue model from the 1990s. In contrast, the brand’s image in the US remains positive, and its pandemic offerings garnered a cult following for its polished yet approachable designs available for online ordering.
Glen Senk, chairman of Boden, attributed the brand’s success in the US to its distinctly British sensibility, resonating with American customers who appreciate British culture. He noted that thirty-something women in the US view Boden as a brand designed for them, unlike their UK counterparts. Additionally, the brand’s association with the Princess of Wales’s outfits, both in-person and during virtual engagements, contributed to its popularity in the US. However, despite celebrity endorsements and high-profile appearances, Boden reported an annual loss of £4.4 million in the UK for the last year. Johnnie Boden, despite admitting his mistakes, remains optimistic and cites examples of other successful companies that overcame challenges.