Kurt Geiger is kicking its Carvela business into higher gear.
After relaunching its namesake Kurt Geiger London footwear brand in the States in 2018, the British fashion powerhouse is now turning its attention to growing the Carvela women’s footwear and apparel label in the U.S. and abroad.
Six months ago, the firm debuted a Carvela retail concept in the Westfield London mall, and company CEO Neil Clifford said another 10 stores are in the works for the next year. “We’re putting millions of pounds behind the brand to open stores and [debut] a really fabulous marketing campaign for spring,” he said. “It’s our biggest brand, so it’s important that we do that.”
Furthermore, Kurt Geiger also is introducing the label to U.S. customers for the first time this holiday season. The company has signed an exclusive partnership Dillard’s, an upscale Arkansas-based department store chain that will carry the footwear and accessories line in 75 locations.
“We are honored to welcome the Carvela collection to the United States,” said Dillard’s director of exclusive branded footwear, Michelle Dillard Hobbs, in a statement. “We continually seek new, exceptional brands, and Carvela is a perfect addition to our curated footwear assortment.”
Dillard’s will initially launch with a cruise collection, consisting of heels, on-trend fashion sneakers and a selection of sandals ranging from $85 to $150. An exclusive ad campaign will help promote the debut. And behind the scenes, Clifford noted, Kurt Geiger is recruiting employees dedicated to supporting the partnership. “We want to make sure there’s a team around [ensuring] the success,” he said.
Dillard’s and Kurt Geiger already have a track record — the department store carries the Kurt Geiger London label — so Clifford said the decision to work together felt natural. “If you look at how authoritative Dillard’s is in shoes, [you’ll see that] they’re one of the kings of footwear in the U.S. So we’re privileged for them to say yes,” said the CEO.
Overall, Clifford added, Kurt Geiger is making strides with its North American operation, achieving growth of about 50%. Clifford credited that progress, in part, to the firm’s international director, Steven Sousa, a former Michael Kors exec who joined in 2017. Sousa and the U.S. team are based in New York, though Clifford said the company is quickly outgrowing the space. “We almost can’t fit all the shoes in the showroom right now, so we’re likely to expand those offices in the next 12 months,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Though the Kurt Geiger portfolio consists of multiple labels, including Kurt Geiger London, Carvela, KG and Miss KG, Clifford said there are no plans at the moment to bring the latter two to the U.S. “Our focus at the moment is developing Kurt Geiger London and Carvela,” said Clifford, adding that KGL is performing well at Nordstrom, particularly its handbags. “But the business is still small. We don’t like being small; we want to be bigger. And right now, we’ve got plenty of room to grow with those important partners.”
In the spring, reports began circulating that Kurt Geiger’s parent company, U.K.-based private equity firm Cinven, was looking to sell the business. Names like Steve Madden, Tapestry and Capri Holdings were bandied about as possible interested parties.
However, Clifford downplayed any sale talk as merely rumor: “We’re a private equity-invested company, so it’s not a secret that one day we will change owners, but I don’t see that in the immediate future.”
For now, he added, the company is focused on boosting revenue, as well as building brand awareness outside the U.K. International sales make up roughly 30% of Kurt Geiger’s business, according to Clifford. “We want that to be north of 60% in the next three to four years, so we’ve got plenty of work to do.”
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