Ray Kelvin ( Ted Baker): "We are going to open stores in Amsterdam and Stockholm."
In the pleasant shared workspace of the Ugly Brown Building, located between Camden and Saint-Pancras in London, Ray Kelvin warmly welcomes his visitor. He is a direct, smiling and charismatic man. All while providing details to FashionMag.com on how Ted Baker functions and its projects, the head of the company, commander of the order of the British Empire for services rendered to the UK fashion industry, keeps a paternal eye over the activities of his 400 employees. Because the story of Ted Baker is his entrepreneurial adventure. From a store in Glasgow specialised in shirts opened in 1988, Ted Baker has become a mid-range brand that offers its marked British style around the world and whose revenue should surpass 365 million pounds for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
FashionMag: You presented your fall-winter 2015/2016 collection. I think it’s the first time you’ve shown a collection so far in advance of its arrival in stores. Why this change?
Raymond Kelvin: Yes, it is indeed the first time that we are presenting the next season. This is due to the fact that our activity is retail-based. We have stores and wanted to be able to present the collection to our retail teams before each season. The shows were much more substantial. But we now have different regions to manage as well as the development of wholesale. We wanted to be able to show this collection in advance.
FM: Does that mean that you are working on a global collection or do you have collections aimed at each market? For example, do you have different sizes or fits on the Asian markets?
RK: That is something we can work on. But for now we are working with the same global identity. Our bestsellers work everywhere. What works in Paris works in Japan. What works in Japan works in the Middle East. We are known for our flower-printed dresses, our pieces are colourful, have detail and design, and that is something that is always wearable. We have a very widespread vision. French brands are often insular in their approach, in English we often say "pigeonholed". We ourselves work on a larger spectrum.
FM: In concrete terms, in your 2013-14 fiscal year you achieved 321 million pounds (485 million USD) in revenue, up nearly 26%. Your 2014-15 fiscal year ends at the end of January. What kind of numbers are you expecting?
RK: The analysts are forecasting 12% to 13% in growth. Or approximately an additional 48 million pounds (72.5 million dollars). Great Britain remains our leading market but the United States is growing strongly. Lots of English brands think that because we speak the same language it is easy to develop in North America. But we have had a direct presence their for 14 years and it is only in the last four years that we have seen positive results.
FM: Compared to last year, your growth is less substantial and you are listed on the stock exchange. Even if you are saying that you are targeting long-term growth, how can you resist pressure by the shareholders?
RK: We have been listed on the stock market for 18 years. And the shareholders trust us, given the company’s success... especially since I still own 40% of the shares. We are profitable (40 million pounds ($60 m) before taxes last year), we don’t borrow a lot and what we earn we invest in our developments. What is important, even if we are listed, is that we want to retain the spirit of the brand. We have had the same teams since the beginning. Most of the executives have been here for 15 or 20 years. We currently have 400 employees at our head office and what I find really too bad is that I can’t of course know all of them. And there are 4,000 around the world. But we all have the same philosophy. The product is at the heart of the process. In our job we pay attention to the details, the design, the quality… The product is central to everything.
FM: What is your presence in the world today?
RK: Including our own stores and concessions, we have 400 retail spaces. But we have a lot of projects. The idea is to expand our global commercial surfaces by 12% every year. This year we are going to open stores in Amsterdam and Stockholm, our first on these markets. We will also open in Azerbaijan and in Doha in Qatar. All our own stores. Whenever we can manage our own projects, we do. We are also going to enter the Mexican, Turkish and Italian markets.
FM: The concessions represent two thirds of your points of sale. Why is this so important for you?
RK: We have the best concessions in most of the British department stores. I like the concessions! In our stores the brand works because it is in its own world. In the concessions, amidst a homogenous offer, the Ted Baker product is visible and stands out with its colours and its style.
FM: Last year you also revamped your Internet platform. Is this an area of strong development for you?
RK: Yes, we created a new platform and we launched sites for the North American market. We are also going to launch an Australian site with others to follow. So it is very interesting in terms of growth. However, there’s no model. With a store, we are familiar with the investment and what we can expect as a return year after year as the store becomes a fixture. For the Internet, it is a lot more complicated to forecast numbers.
FM: France is the first country where you opened stores on continental Europe. What is your vision of this market?
RK: We recently opened a store on the Terrasses du Port. And, although they weren’t very profitable at first, our stores in Paris are doing well, especially the one in the Marais district. In fact, we are looking to open a third store in Paris. And the Galeries Lafayette would also like to develop our presence. We are presenting womenswear and are achieving good results in Strasbourg and Nice, in the cities where there is an international clientele. The approach with France was to say that, if we can manage to seduce France, we will be able to approach other markets, like Germany. But the overall situation in France is difficult. Seen from the outside, the climate does not make you want to invest in there.
FM: In addition to men’s and women’s collections, you have a very vast offer of accessories. What do these items represent in your activity?
RK: The women’s collection covers the most sales space in the stores. In fact, the ratio is 60-40. But the accessories represent 35% of the revenue. We sign a lot of licenses, with the last one being ceramics. Last season we launched headphones, but also, under license, shoes, fragrances, eyewear, etc. It is a very attractive activity and, moreover, profitable.
FM: Are launches of new categories or lines in the forecast? Made in the UK or a sports line, for example?
RK: We don’t have any projects of that type. We always launch new products. For example, for next season we have an outfit adapted for bike riding in the city, commuter-style. I love tennis and so I created a complete outfit for the leading English player, James Ward, a man I love. It is made out of technical materials but has genuine style. But we are not going to launch out into sport. That’s not our identity.
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