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River Island-backed brand Harpenne permanently closed after less than a year

Harpenne, an online womenswear brand launched by River Island less than a year ago, became the latest casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic on Thursday after announcing it has stopped trading.

Launched in September 2019 with its debut AW19 collection, the affordable brand was targeted at older women and was spearheaded by managing director of business development at River Island, Fiona Lambert.

Lambert launched the brand after noticing a “huge gap in the market”, and geared the label toward women who were “rediscovering themselves and embracing their sense of style”.

The AW19 collection comprised 120 ethically sourced pieces with an entry price point of $32, tops for $32-120 and dresses for $76-180.

But on Thursday the brand announced it had been forced to suspend trading. Consumers can still, for now, shop its items from its partners at John Lewis and Next.

The company added that it will continue to honor all returns within its standard terms of sale, 14 days from receipt of goods.

Sofie Willmott, lead analyst at data and analytics firm GlobalData said in a statement: “Still in its infancy and yet to build a loyal customer base, River Island owned Harpenne has permanently shut its website today. With well-established clothing brands including Oasis, Warehouse, Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley already victims of the Covid-19 crisis, their smaller and lesser known equivalents are under immense pressure and are at risk of not surviving the next few months as demand for clothing & footwear continues to plummet.

“Operating as an online pureplay as well as stocking its range on Next and John Lewis & Partners’ sites, Harpenne’s closure is evidence that selling via the online channel is not enough to safeguard retailers. Although online clothing & footwear spend will be better protected as non-essential stores remain closed, we still expect it to decline 7.9 percent this year when retailers have previously been able to rely on digital channels for growth.”

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