Kurt Geiger CEO Neil Clifford
Kurt Geiger CEO Neil Clifford
 

08 Nov. 2012

Interview: Neil Clifford, CEO Kurt Geiger, explains plans for expansion

Kurt Geiger shows a mix of 150 brands, from Gucci to Dr. Martens, and several of its own-label lines. The company employs 22 designers of footwear and accessories to ensure that it keeps right on top of any prevailing trend. Having reached saturation level in the UK, Kurt Geiger is now on an international expansion strategy. Here, Kurt Geiger CEO Neil Clifford talks about the company's plans. By Eric Musgrave

Harrods store by Kurt Geiger
Harrods store by Kurt Geiger



Explain your concession concept.
Kurt Geiger runs about 250 concessions in all the major store groups in the UK, from Selfridges and Harrods to House of Fraser, John Lewis, Fenwick, Liberty, Hoopers…. In most cases we basically run their shoe businesses. Our key job is to ensure that there is there is the correct mix of brands and looks at the appropriate prices for each partner store. At Selfridges in London, for example, we have our own buying team. We also have shops at the seven major UK airports, including two at Heathrow.
In Ireland we have concessions in Brown Thomas, Arnotts and House of Fraser. On the continent, we went into Printemps eight years ago, we are in three La Rinascente stores in Italy and this autumn we opened in eight Karstadt stores in Germany, with another eight in the pipeline for spring.
We are now actively looking at Europe in general. We are deep in thought about what we could do. We are investigating Spain and Holland.
Going the concession route is one way, although not necessarily the easy way. But we believe our take on catwalk looks is valid. We see there is a white space in Europe for us to fill.
We have stores in the Middle East in partnership with Landmark, we are in Russia with Fashion Galaxy and we have Demsa as a partner in Turkey.

Kurt Geiger store in San Francisco
Kurt Geiger store in San Francisco
The Jones Group bought Kurt Geiger out of private equity ownership in 2011. Now that you are part of an American footwear group with sales of $4 billion, what are your plans for the US?
Our store at 250 Stockton Street, in the Union Square district of San Francisco, opened a few months ago and it is the most advanced retail concept we have. We are positioning ourselves as good-quality, cool European, rather than British, fashion retailer, selling shoes at around $250 to $350. There is a lot of competition in the US, of course, but we see a tiny bit of white space for us to fill. We will open 8 to 10 stores in the US during the next three years. We have two scheduled for New York City–on Bleecker Street and in SoHo–for late spring. We should be in Las Vegas definitely, Miami, Dallas, downtown LA….
Trading in the US has shown us that fashion is becoming more global. The time of very different things selling in the Far East or America has passed. The bestseller in San Francisco is the same as the bestseller in London’s Bond Street. Men’s is doing a lot better than we thought in the US too.

What are your plans for Asia?
We are exploring Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan. By 2014 we want to have a presence in some or all of these markets, either trading directly or with local partners.

Read the full interview in our brandnew issue 247.

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