NEW YORK — Christopher Burch’s colorful, monogram-happy C. Wonder retail concept is going global.
Just two years into the life of the brand, Burch, chief executive officer of Burch Creative Capital, has signed a licensing agreement with Al Tayer to open stores in the Middle East. In addition, he has a timetable for rolling out the brand to other parts of the world.
“We have a five-year plan,” Burch said of international expansion. “The goal is to have 250 to 300 stores in 50 countries in five years.”
C. Wonder in the first quarter of 2014 will open five stores in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. The first C. Wonder unit in the region will bow in Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates in early spring.
Khalid Al Tayer, ceo of the Al Tayer Group, said, “There’s a level of energy and animation in the store that comes out of all the elements of C. Wonder — the store design, product creativity and assortment. There’s such a great product price range. It’s very appealing. We have a very young customer in the Gulf. This resonates very well with them.”
Al Tayer said there should be an opportunity for “north of 20 stores in the region.” He also revealed that C. Wonder will open a shop-in-shop at the Al Tayer-operated Bloomingdale’s in Dubai and other select stores in the region.
Vince Montemarano, senior vice president of international at C. Wonder, who held posts at Limited Brands Inc. and Gap, said, “It takes a long time to build a brand. I’ve never seen a brand develop so quickly.”
Burch intends to use different business models in different parts of the world. “Stores in the U.K. and Western Europe will be self-owned,” he said. “The Middle East, Latin America and Asia will be franchised. We plan to sign three to four new [franchise] partners a year.”
Montemarano said the plan is to enter Europe in 2017 or 2018. Burch added, “In Japan, Korea, Mexico and Australia, the main opportunity is shops-in-shop.”
“We’re talking in Asia,” Montemarano said, referring to potential partners. “We’ll probably move fast in Southeast Asia, in Hong Kong and China.”
Burch said products sold overseas will be “very similar to those available in the U.S. We can edit the best of the best.” However, he added, “We always like to personalize and customize for each territory. We’re very appealing across many areas. Color, novelty, uniqueness and personalization are very appealing globally. In the international world, there’s a need to fill the white spaces. Color resonates very well.”
The average size of international stores will be about 2,500 square feet, with flagships between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet in size. Stores in the U.S. are considerably bigger, with Manhattan locations in the 8,000-square-foot range.
Burch has said he expects all of his concepts to eventually be global.
In the U.S., C. Wonder operates 30 stores. While the retailer expands around the world, Burch is tweaking domestic units. “Some stores were too big and we’re making them smaller,” he said. “We don’t have to be the biggest company in the world. We have lots of brands we’ll be launching in the future. We’re very strategic. The whole overgrowth thing is not what you want.
“I think international will be bigger than expected,” Burch added. Still, C. Wonder has considerable growth left on the domestic front. “We’re trying to max out at a certain number [in the U.S.] — 125, but we may end up with 200 stores. We realized how important it is to open in small towns. There are certain cities where we may never open stores. All the Southern states deserve stores, but some cities in the Midwest won’t be appropriate,” Burch said, noting that C. Wonder is looking for flagships in Los Angeles and Chicago. “We like small and big markets,” he said, citing Nantucket and Southampton, N.Y., as examples of the former, where “business is quite good. We’re looking at shops-in-shop. The retailer has to buy into our total concept.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Burch revealed that he photo-copied one of his high school report cards, filled with Ds and Fs and placed it on the chairs of his employees. He saw it as a way of motivating people along the lines of “If I can make it, so can you.” He explained that his retail and apparel concepts — including daughters Pookie and Louisa Burch’s new Trademark collection — take up only part of his time. He also invests in new technology, and demonstrated a breakthrough, a tissue with a waterproof coating, as an example. As Burch poured water on the tissue, beads of liquid slid off. He next tried the experiment on a suede handbag treated with the same chemical.
“We’ll continue to be innovative and disruptive, mirroring everything the brand’s done in the U.S.,” said Burch of C. Wonder, referring to openings with balloons, music, kids games and candy. “We do partnerships with celebrities and we’ll look at local celebrities.”
C. Wonder’s Web site sells in the U.S. now, but Burch said, “We’re looking at building a site for international. In the meantime, we’ll have local pages for all markets, but they won’t be transactional.”
Just as Burch has learned what locations work best, he now better understands product categories. “Initially, apparel was 20 percent of total merchandise,” he said. “Now, it’s 45 percent. Shoes were not as well-designed and thought through” and that’s changing. “We took home from 19 percent to 16 percent.
“I’d like to get into men’s, it’s going to be a great market going forward,” Burch continued. “There’s a huge appetite for kids and baby, especially in the Middle East.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye