By  on July 7, 2008

Asprey of London is pushing top-tier luxury.The 227-year-old British brand, which was acquired in 2006 by Plainfield Asset Management and Sciens Capital, is shedding categories such as ready-to-wear and footwear and pushing its core products, including fine jewelry, silver and leather goods. To spearhead the new direction, Asprey chairman John Rigas has lured back former Asprey & Garrard chief executive officer Robert Procop as president and ceo of Asprey.Procop succeeds Gianluca Brozzetti, group ceo of Asprey, who left the firm 12 months ago after six years at the helm.Procop, who started in his role on Friday, was ceo of Asprey & Garrard from 1999 to 2000 when it was owned by Prince Jefri of Brunei, bringing the company near breakeven from a $160 million loss. After the Asprey brand was spun off, he then was ceo of Garrard from March 2006 until earlier this year.Procop's specialty is high-end jewelry. The Los Angeles native founded Diamonds on Rodeo in the Eighties, where he counted celebrities and royals on his client roster. He later founded Jewels of Beverly Hills, where he also served high-profile clients. He was the first American ceo of Asprey & Garrard, the-then crown jeweler to Queen Elizabeth and other royals."We want to have a ceo that has a jewelry background," said Rigas. "And Robert has been successful in the jewelry market for many years."Rigas said under the prior ownership, Asprey expanded into a lot of categories that weren't part of its core, referring to former owners Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou, co-chairman of Sportswear Holdings Ltd., owner of Michael Kors. Stroll and Chou bought Asprey and Garrard from Prince Jefri, creating the A&G Group and expanding Asprey into rtw, shoes and other accessories while at the same time opening mega­stores in New York and London."That was an unsuccessful expansion," Rigas said.The company will cease rtw sales come January and current creative director Hakan Rosenius, who designed lavish yet intimate runway shows for Asprey, will become a consultant to the brand on matters of design and style.Rigas is focused on honing the company's best product categories, namely bespoke items for which it is famous, from custom china for a 300-foot yacht to a set of alligator luggage."We brought the company together in a way that was focused in the core categories," Rigas said. "We refocused on the product lines, supply chain, logistics and warehousing operations. We rationalized and downsized the product base."Rigas added that sales for the year ended March 31 didn't surpass the $42 million in sales from 2006 because of the streamlining of product categories, but that sales so far this year are up — jewelry and watches specifically have grown 25 to 30 percent from a year ago."I hate to say it because I know people are suffering out there, but our sales are up 15 percent worldwide this year," said Rigas. "Growth is not so good in the U.S., but it's much better in other markets."Rigas said the London flagship had a 25 percent gain and that the three-year-old Japanese business is up 100 percent over last year. Rigas said that while clients from emerging markets like Russia and Dubai gravitate toward Asprey, he is not looking to opening stores across the globe to satiate their desire.Asprey has 15 stores across the U.K., U.S., Switzerland, Dubai, Malaysia and Japan, with flagships on London's New Bond Street and Madison Avenue in New York. In 2009, the firm is slated to unveil plans for a flagship in the Middle East.But for now, the company is focused on bolstering its silver, leather goods, china, gifts, crystal, rare books and hard luxury goods business. In September, Asprey will launch several jewelry collections. Offerings will range from entry price point to high jewelry, which sells for hundreds of thousands and often millions of dollars.

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