Newsmaker of the Year: Jimmy Choo

Jimmy Choo is no stranger to media attention. But in 2014, the British footwear brand managed to spike the public’s fascination even higher.

This fall, in a period of weeks, Jimmy Choo reopened its London flagship, hosted a glamorous shindig for its newest collection and filed for an initial public offering that will pave the way for massive expansion in Asia.

The media response, particularly for the IPO, was exceptional, spreading beyond traditional fashion publications to global news organizations.

Luca Solca, an analyst who tracks global luxury goods for Exane BNP Paribas, attributed some of the excitement to pent-up demand. “There is a limited amount of publicly traded luxury goods and fashion companies,” he said, noting that

Jimmy Choo is especially well-positioned. “Luxury footwear is an interesting category. This is a space that’s still largely fragmented and unbranded, with very few global brands in it. Jimmy Choo and a handful of others are prominent in it.”

Jimmy Choo CEO Pierre Denis pointed out that the label inspires strong loyalty. “Since I joined [in 2012], I’ve been consistently amazed at the passion and enthusiasm there is for this brand,” he said. “No matter where I go, when I mention Jimmy Choo, people’s eyes light up. Even among the financial community, there is tremendous affection for and interest in the brand.”

Still, there have been some bumps. When the company began conditional trading on the London Stock Exchange on Oct. 17, it set a share price of 1.40 pounds ($2.20 at current exchange rates), which was on the low end of its initial range. In the following weeks, though, the stock has risen 23.6 percent to 1.73 pounds ($2.72) as of press time.

Market watchers noted that Jimmy Choo listed in the midst of tough macroeconomic factors. Solca cited slumping consumer spending in Asia and unrest in Eastern Europe as two issues weighing on investors’ minds.

Camilo Lyon, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, noted that fashion companies across the board are struggling due to the lack of prevailing trends and competition from Apple for consumer dollars.

Nonetheless, Jimmy Choo is pushing ahead with ambitious plans. The luxury brand made a splash in September when it reopened its townhouse on London’s New Bond Street. At 2,160 square feet, the flagship is now its largest worldwide and will become the model for future retail projects. “It was important to us that we united the elegance of an haute couture salon with the intimacy of a fantasy shoe closet,” Denis said. “[Our customers now] have the opportunity to shop across the full breadth of the collection.”

One new retail feature is a made-to-order service, which Jimmy Choo highlighted last month at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. “The event allowed clients to design their custom shoe, selecting from stunning offerings of colors, fabrics and monogramming,” said Tracy Margolies, Bergdorf’s SVP and GMM of beauty, contemporary 5F, footwear and handbags. “It was our most impactful initiative with the brand this year.”

Jimmy Choo is also expanding its footprint in Asia. By the end of this year, it expects to have 14 doors in China — up from three in 2012 — with future store openings planned in Macau, Singapore and South Korea. Its goal is to have more than 30 stores in the region within the next three to five years.

There have been other big moments in Asia. In late 2013, unbeknownst to the brand, its Abel pump was featured in the plotline of a popular Korean soap opera, “My Love From the Star,” igniting a buying frenzy. “The series brought the brand to a whole new level of awareness in China and resulted in the global sell-out of one of our most popular styles,” said Denis. “You can’t plan for something like this, but it is magic when it happens.”

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