By  on May 8, 2006

BOSTON — Careful and controlled brand extension is the best way for luxury houses to further leverage brand equity, executives from several such companies told their potential successors.

Speaking at a daylong conference on luxe product and retailing last month at the Harvard Business School, top executives from Jimmy Choo, Tumi, Salvatore Ferragamo USA, Derek Lam and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton outlined plans for new products and stores.

The session, sponsored jointly by the Luxury Goods & Design Business Club and the Retail & Apparel Club at the business school, drew about 300 almost-MBAs, double the attendance from the first such event last year. While two-thirds of the students were from Harvard, students from business schools around the Northeast and as far south as Duke attended.

Robert Bensoussan, chief executive of Jimmy Choo, said the iconic shoe company plans to expand into fragrances, eyewear and other accessories and even into jeans, following the successful launch of a handbag line in 2003.

"We don't want Jimmy Choo just to be known as a shoe brand," Bensoussan said in the conference keynote speech, but added brand extensions will be done "very carefully."

He declined to give a timetable for new product additions when asked later.

While Jimmy Choo's sales are about 70 percent shoes and 30 percent handbags in its established markets of the U.K., the U.S., Asia and the rest of Europe, the sales mix is closer to 50-50, he said.

Jimmy Choo will have 54 branded stores by the end of the year, up from 36 at the end of last year, and has finally found a location on Rodeo Drive "that we can afford," he said. By the end of 2008, store count, including franchises, will be close to 80 worldwide.

Tumi, the luggage maker, will launch a line of men's performance activewear in July, and a similar line for women in spring 2007, said Wendee Lunt, vice president of global marketing and new business development.

The line is being developed jointly with Umbro and will be called Umbro for Tumi. It's aimed at business travelers, with such features as antimicrobial treatment and rapid drying.

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