LONDON — It’s the end of one era and the start of another at Burberry, which waved goodbye to its chairman Sir John Peace, welcomed his successor Dr. Gerry Murphy and saw Ron Frasch take his seat at the long table of non-executive directors on Thursday at the Conrad hotel, near St. James’s Park.
Marco Gobbetti, Burberry’s chief executive officer, recapped the year for a small group of mostly individual shareholders. He also reiterated his commitment to cementing Burberry’s place in luxury, “the most rewarding and enduring segment of the market.”
“It’s early in our journey, but I am confident we’re on the right path,” said Gobbetti, adding that Riccardo Tisci, Burberry’s new chief creative officer, has the “unique gift” of combining streetwear with high fashion. “Personally, I’m really enjoying working with him again.”
The two had first partnered at Givenchy: Gobbetti recruited Tisci to design for the French brand, where the latter stayed for a successful 12 years, leaving his post in early 2017. Tisci also helped to ignite the streetwear trend: His feet are forever clad in Nike, and he’s been a regular collaborator on special projects with the brand over the past year.
Gobbetti also discussed Burberry’s “fluid, flexible and creative” approach to deliveries, which will arrive more frequently starting in September, when Tisci stages his first runway show. He added that Burberry is also changing the way it greets and follows its clients through the purchasing process. Earlier this week, in its first-quarter trading update, Burberry confirmed it had completed global rollout of a new “digital clienteling tool” to support enhanced customer service.
The company reported a three percent uptick in first-quarter retail sales to 479 million pounds, broadly in line with analysts’ projections. Drivers behind the growth were Chinese tourists, shopping in Asia-Pacific; and the U.S. market, which has begun to embrace Burberry once again.
At reported exchange rates, retail sales were flat while comparable store sales grew three percent in the 13 weeks to June 30. On Thursday, following the AGM, Burberry shares closed up 2 percent at 20.56 pounds.
Asked on the sidelines of the meeting for more details about Burberry’s new and more frequent delivery strategy, which WWD first reported on Tuesday, Gobbetti said everything is being done to better serve the customer.
The brand is shifting from its see-now, buy-now strategy and is more interested in drip-feeding new designs onto the shop floor — and digital screen.
Last week Tisci announced, via Instagram, a collaboration with one of his design idols, Vivienne Westwood, who will “reimagine” signature Burberry styles that will launch in-store in December. He is also planning to release a limited-edition capsule collection as part of his runway debut that will start delivering in September.
Those new and more frequent deliveries appear to mimic the street and sneaker brands, which have become masters at creating customer hysteria around the limited-edition drops.
“We’re not trying to copy or simulate anyone else’s model,” Gobbetti said. “What we are doing is best from a design and creative point of view and best for the Burberry customer who doesn’t want to wait six months to see new fashion. We’re keeping the customer interested.”
He added that Burberry’s wholesale accounts will also take part in the new delivery strategy. “Wholesale and digital are very important for us, and they will remain a very important part of the business. They will play in the new model.”
Asked about the cost of delivering smaller drops more frequently, compared with see-now, buy-now and seasonal deliveries, Gobbetti said: “We’ll see when we get there. Cost was not a consideration when we made this decision. It was the customer we had in mind when creating this new calendar.”
Gobbetti also took a look back at the brand’s recent history, thanking Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s former president and chief creative officer, for his “tremendous contributions, and the incredible legacy and strong foundations” he created for the company. Bailey announced his resignation last year, showed his final collection in February during London Fashion Week, and is currently mulling his next move.
The ceo also thanked Peace, who’d served as chairman for 16 years, and who oversaw Burberry’s transformation “from a licensed business to a luxury brand,” and whose tenure coincided with a fivefold growth in revenue.