LONDON — Despite erosion in its North American wholesale business, there’s apparently no stopping the momentum at French Connection.
Even with the perilous retail market in the New World taking more than a 40 percent bite out of FC’s wholesale business, the trendy U.K. casualwear company reported Wednesday that profits in the fiscal year ending Jan. 31 rose 37.8 percent to $32.6 million from $23.7 million in 2001. Sales rose 6.8 percent to $385.6 million from $361.1 million. Dollar figures have been converted from the pound at the current exchange rate.
"The rises are directly related to our continuing focus on the product, retail environment, advertising and marketing," said Stephen Marks, chairman and chief executive of French Connection Group PLC.
"Over the next five years, it is up to us to make this an $800 million business," said Marks, whose firm will be venturing into Mexico with a retail license and expanding in Hong Kong with a retail joint venture later this year.
As reported, the company in September will introduce its FCUK fragrance, to be produced under license by Zirh International Corp., the men’s U.S. skin care manufacturer and a division of Shiseido. It will launch in approximately 9,000 department store and perfumery doors — in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Mideast — as well as 100 French Connection stores. There are plans to roll out the scent and related products in about 40 countries within two years.
The bulk of French Connection’s sales — 80 percent — comes from the U.K. and Europe, where the company has 82 directly operated stores and 29 franchises. Sales in the U.K. and Europe increased 21.1 percent to $163.5 million, thanks in part to an increase in retail space.
In North America, where FC has 36 directly operated stores, retail sales increased 6.9 percent to $51.8 million from $48.5 million, but the North American wholesale business was an entirely different story. Sales dropped 43.2 percent to $19.4 million due to "difficult" retail conditions.
"We’re working our way back upwards in terms of wholesale in North America," Marks told WWD during an interview. "We think sales trends are looking very promising in the U.S."He said comparable-store sales in the first five weeks of fiscal 2003 were up 18 percent, versus a 12 percent increase in the U.K. and Europe.
He said the company was on track to open a new store at the Pentagon City Mall in Washington, D.C., and that Marshall Field’s was planning to open a French Connection space at its flagship in the fall. Marks said French Connection was looking to open a total of 25 stores in North America in the medium term.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)