When Neil Clifford spoke to a roomful of footwear executives on the first morning of the summit, he opened with a bit of classic British understatement: “We are not the most interesting thing going on in London at the moment.”
Sure, Kate and William’s royal wedding the next day captured the world’s attention, but the business story behind Kurt Geiger has its own share of glam.
In the last four years, the company has doubled in size, recently cracking $300 million in sales, according to Clifford, its CEO. “We are now the second-biggest shoe company in the U.K., behind Clarks,” he said. “Our average ticket is almost $200.”
The company benefited from a combination of weakened currency, a major competitor going out of business and smart growth strategies.
“We have had five great years,” Clifford said. “We really didn’t have a recession in the U.K. As a result, we’ve had 22 quarters of growth.”
Fueling that was the Kurt Geiger e-commerce business, which is the firm’s most profitable store, according to Clifford. So far, the website has rung up $15 million in annual sales. But that number will rise even more as executives plan to take the site global in September. It is currently available only to residents of the U.K.
Also strengthening the firm is a healthy department store business — Harrods and Selfridges each bring in roughly $1.5 million a week in shoe sales — as well as an “embryonic” but rapidly expanding wholesale and franchise model.
“What we know is that great product travels extremely well,” he said. “The best sellers that are in Dubai, that are in Moscow, or in Istanbul are also the best sellers in Covent Garden and in Harrods. The world is becoming a smaller place, which is good news for us all.”
Along those lines, Clifford said the company is seeking to expand the reach of its Kurt Geiger stores.
“We have real confidence that a Kurt Geiger store could work in America,” he said.