Burton of London seeking to inject more contemporary spirit into women’s collection
French-owned ready-to-wear retailer Burton of London is busy trying to redress the balance between the market positioning of its men’s and women’s collections. Thierry Perusat, CEO of Burton of London for the last 12 months, talked to FashionNetwork.com about the current projects and new ambitions of the France-based brand owned by the Omnium group (also the owner of French menswear retailer Devred 1902).
FashionNetwork.com: What has changed in the market positioning of Burton of London?
Thierry Perusat: Our brand’s mission is to enable men and women to reinvent themselves every day. This is the idea that drives us. In terms of menswear, this translates into clothes suitable for every situation, from formal and business outfits to casualwear, as well as eventwear for big occasions. In womenswear, our looks have become more directional, as we strive to be increasingly contemporary. We aren’t at the forefront of fashion, but we are making clothes with instant appeal for all women aged 35 and over.
FNW: What was the previous positioning?
TP: We have had several. In the past, the consumer target of Burton of London was similar to that of J.Crew. But I think that J.Crew isn’t Burton, our clientèle and brand DNA are different. Our identity is above all British. Burton of London was founded in the UK 113 years ago, and it was built around men’s suits. Once Burton established itself in the suit segment, it launched womenswear, which became a sizeable market for the brand. Now, we are distilling the essence of this brand DNA, and adapting it to the contemporary world.
FNW: Has this repositioning meant a change in pricing?
TP: Not at all. Our price levels have remained extremely stable. Menswear accounts for a little over 50% of our revenue. There is a lot of ground to be made with womenswear, though our current objective is to stabilise the ratio at 50-50. The difference in how our men’s and women’s collections were perceived was too big, it was glaring. We gradually brought the men’s and women’s ranges closer together, to make the brand more coherent.
FNW: Are you planning to grow the number of stores?
TP: We currently operate 135 stores, all of them in France. My priority is to consolidate the French business. International expansion is something we’ll consider in three years, not before. We aren’t planning any new openings in France in the coming months. We have three franchisees. In the future, we may want to grow our franchising business in France.
FNW: What is eventually the goal of your brand re-positioning?
TP: We want to become a direct competitor of Massimo Dutti. There are only a few labels in France which, like us, sell both menswear and womenswear, and are able to offer a complete range for both sexes and for every occasion. You often find [brands] with an overwhelmingly large womenswear range, or with just menswear. We are keen to work on both markets, and to bring our women’s collection closer to the men’s, which must continue to modernise.
FNW: How are you going about this?
TP: For womenswear, we launched our first collaboration, with Virginie Castaway, last year. It’s a good thing, because it enabled us to come across as more contemporary. And also, to attract new customers. We plan to launch other collaborations. In menswear, we have a more formal range, with suits in various styles, and an urban casual one, with chinos, jackets, shirts and other clothes, suitable both for business and leisure looks. Formal wear remains a staple, but urban casual is gradually expanding.
FNW: Has the timing of your launches changed?
TP: From the autumn, we introduce new items in-store nearly every two months, with new concepts coming in every 6-8 weeks. We no longer concentrate all our budget in the first part of the season. And we work this way both with internally-designed capsule collections and with collaborations. Ever since we changed our approach, we attracted a lot of new customers. In the last 3-4 months, new womenswear customers were 3 to 5 years younger than the average age of our female customers. And we are also winning over people in their forties who used to be our customers, but left Burton because the style didn’t suit them any more.
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