Boux Avenue is in Trouble

The lingerie brand is facing serious financial difficulty after another bad year

Can anyone really express much surprise at the news that Boux Avenue is having a tough financial year? Word got out this week that the Theo Paphitis-owned brand is undertaking rent renegotiation in an attempt to prevent its collapse. No sooner had I heard this than a survey appeared in my inbox, asking me to take part for a chance to win a £100 voucher. £100 doesn’t go very far at Boux Avenue, but I was intrigued, so I gave it a go. What followed was several pages of fairly in-depth branding questions, from whether I’d recommend it to friends (and why I wouldn’t), to word association. I couldn’t help but choose ‘boring’ as the first word that came to mind.

The sad fact is that in an increasingly competitive market, mid-level brands such as Boux Avenue are likely to be squeezed out. It sits somewhere between Ann Summers and Victoria’s Secret – it’s like Ann Summers for Head Girls. Not too safe, but safe enough. If this were paired with well-designed products of a high quality it would in all likelihood be a winning combination. Sadly it is not. Only very rarely have I entered one of its 30 stores and not left with a sense of disappointment. From tacky man-made fabrics, to poorly placed seams and a decidedly small range of styles, there just isn’t much to entice you. The prices meanwhile are high enough that you would reasonably demand garments of better quality. The stock seems to be based around having a small number of styles in a dazzling array of colours. How many years have they been selling the same Chloe bra in a million colours? Sometimes this works (I must admit to having the same matching set in three different colours), but if you don’t find something to your taste, you’re in and out of the shop within minutes. Add to this their erratic sizing, and it is difficult to motivate yourself to bother going in. Their staff are always wonderful, but when their own fitters tell you that you’ll need to try three different sizes depending on which of their bras you choose, it doesn’t really inspire confidence.

The Chloe Bra Set, in one of approximately 30,000 colourways

This is a sad situation, as there is a lamentable lack of choice when it comes to lingerie on the British high street. How many of us find ourselves going back to trusty M&S for the umpteenth time, simply because we know we’ll find something there, even if it isn’t quite what we were after? The current market is heading almost exclusively online, but of all things bras are worth trying on in a shop. The rush to the bottom on price is being met by an accompanying reach for luxury, as expensive brands emphasise the experience of buying and wearing their clothes. But where does this leave the mid-level budget, wanting high quality clothes that fall short of luxury, but which offer great choice? Increasingly lingerie is found only within sections of larger stores, a subset of a larger brand. Bravissimo is maybe an exception to this, but it aims to be niche, and has problems with quality to Boux Avenue.

The death of the high street leaves us stranded in a world of compromise. With the budgetary extremes defining what is available, perhaps the days of the happy medium are over (if they ever really existed). We can only hope that their current turmoil offers Boux Avenue a chance to really evaluate their place in our budgets and wardrobes, and perhaps to finally become the beautiful everyday option they have long aspired to be. I with them the very best of luck.

What do you think about the potential demise of Boux Avenue? Do you shop there regularly, or do you tend to give them a miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so let me know in the comments!

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