New Grenson Owner Eyes Growth

LONDON — With the recent sale of Grenson to its creative director and former CEO, Tim Little, the men’s British heritage brand is determined to expand its market reach.

“I will speed up the changes, [and I’m now] able to do exactly what I want to do without having to wait for approval,” Little said. “Grenson is a wonderful heritage brand, offering a great opportunity to bring it up to date and to a wider audience.

The move came about when Grenson Chairman Christian Purslow (who took over the family business from his father in 2004) landed the managing directorship of Liverpool Football Club earlier this year. He asked Little about helping him find a buyer, and the latter jumped at the chance to acquire the brand.

“The beauty of it was that I knew the company inside and out, so it was what is known in the business as a ‘friendly deal,’” Little said of the acquisition.

Totaling 30 employees, the current business includes the factory in Rushden, England; a store on London’s Liverpool Street; and a headquarters above the Tim Little store on London’s King’s Road.

Little said his plans for Grenson include continuing to partner with brands and designers.

The company has an ongoing collaboration with Rag & Bone. It also has worked with Simon Spurr and Commonwealth Utilities in New York, and British brand Bespoken, providing shoes for each brand’s fall ’10 runway shows. In addition, Grenson has taken steps into the women’s market, with an Olivia Morris for Grenson brogue in nine colorways, available at Matches in London.

Little also is working on a retail strategy. He said he would like to find a U.S. partner “with muscle” to help open stores in New York and Los Angeles. That plan is, in part, based on the strength of the Grenson business in the U.S.

The label is available in 25 stateside accounts, including Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Douglas Fir in Los Angeles and Gimme Shoes in San Francisco, and it will debut for fall ’10 in Saks Fifth Avenue and Mario’s in Seattle.

“Our U.S. numbers weren’t affected by the downturn; although, if [the recession] hadn’t happened, we would have been way more successful,” Little said. He projected total sales for the brand would top $6 million for the year ending March 2011.

For their part, retailers said Little was the ideal buyer to take over the company.

“The sale of Grenson to Tim Little is a perfect outcome for all concerned,” said Neil Steptoe, head of men’s buying at Kurt Geiger, which stocks the brand at Harrods and Selfridges. “The company will keep the talents of the man who has helped dust it [off] and turn it around, and Tim himself will now be able to … get on with pushing the brand harder.”

Little joined the Northamptonshire-based shoe brand in January 2005 as CEO, later shifting to creative director.

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