Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's clothing store forced to rebrand after battle with U.K. giant

Gail Decker has operated Next Clothing Company in a prime location on Water Street in downtown St. John's for the last 24 years, but now has to change the name after a U.K. company named Next had her social media and Shopify sites shut down. 

Gail Decker, owner of Next Clothing Company, says she's no threat to U.K. company with same name

Gail Decker, owner of Gail's Clothing Company, has rebranded her clothing company after 24 years in business, following a legal battle with a huge U.K. clothing company with the same name. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Gail Decker has operated Next Clothing Company in a prime location on Water Street in downtown St. John's for the last 24 years, but has changed her business's name after a U.K. company — also called Next — had her social media and Shopify sites shut down. 

Decker told CBC News the fight began two years ago when her Facebook and Instagram pages were taken down by Facebook after the U.K. Next filed a complaint. She said Next wanted her to change the name of her business, so she removed the "T" from the name on the page and carried on. 

Two weeks ago, another shutdown, Decker said, along with her Shopify site. She said she was notified by Facebook, only after she asked what happened, that Next was claiming trademark infringement.

"I sent back one reply, as I'm a little store in the middle of the North Atlantic and I'm absolutely no threat, but we obviously needed to do something to get it all back," Decker said.

The U.K. Next has about 700 stores worldwide, and took in £3.3 billion in revenue last year.

Gail's Clothing Company, formerly Next Clothing Company, sits in a prime location on Water Street in downtown St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Decker moved a lot of her business online last year as a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. When her Shopify site disappeared, she said, customers took notice, and she was worried people would think she had closed her business for good. 

"We had a lot of customers drop into the store to make sure we're still here and we weren't sick. We had a call from Montreal from another lady who orders online," she said. "People definitely did notice."

Decker sought legal advice but came to understand there was no way she could fight a huge company, and she decided to rebrand — and so, Next Clothing Company became Gail's Clothing Company.

Gail's Clothing Company is rebranding but never closed, despite the pandemic and the dispute over the store's name. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Decker said her customers love the new name and are supportive in the transition. 

"I tried other names, and every name I tried was already used and I wasn't willing to take that chance again," she said. 

"This is probably the easiest transition for our customers. I think a lot of people know that I'm Gail, and I'm trying to keep it simple."

Decker's website, Shopify and Facebook pages are back online under her new name. 

The U.K.-based Next has not responded to a CBC News request for comment.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton

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