Burberry, a company once known only for its trademark plaid, has come a long way under the direction of chief executive officer Angela Ahrendts. She joined the company back in 2006 and steered it through the depths of the economic downturn, revealing back in late 2008 that she would cut $78 million in expenses. Unsurprisingly, Ahrendts claims that trying period galvanized her workforce. “I was taught never to waste a good recession,” she said, in the new issue of WSJ.


Ahrendts is now at the helm of a $2 billion fashion empire, which has become one of the biggest names in the fashion business. She’s also behind Burberry’s digital strategy and no luxury company connects to its customer base more aggressively in this medium. Burberry was the first to present its runway shows in 3-D in New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, Paris and Tokyo.


Outerwear and bags were made available to purchase through “click and buy” technology, with delivery happening months before merchandise was available in stores. And the brand has more than a million fans on Facebook (Gucci has about 850,000).


To Ahrendts’ annoyance, investors and analysts tend to focus on the number of transactions generated by digital efforts, which she admits is still in the low single digits as a total percentage of sales, but Ahrendts points out that ecommerce sales are up 60 percent year over year. “But at some point people are going to understand that this is the way you build community,” she said.


“One of the important things we’ve accomplished is having Burberry speak to younger people, having it be relevant and modern, and the fact is that this is now the way people connect to brands, how loyalty is built.”


WSJ.’s September issue comes out this weekend.

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