NEW YORK — Calvin Klein is out to cover the world — and it’s using e-commerce to do it.
This story first appeared in the December 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Simply put, we started with one operating platform in one continent and, within the last few months, operate in three continents now and [soon] this will be four [continents],” Steve Shiffman, chief executive officer of Calvin Klein, told WWD in his office at the brand’s headquarters here. “By 2016 we will be in at least 20 different countries.”
New e-commerce destinations already have launched in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. Dedicated sites will roll out in Canada, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan through 2016. Calvin Klein’s Chinese site, calvinklein.cn, will go live in March.
The two-year e-commerce project is the most ambitious to date for Shiffman since he became ceo of the PVH Corp.-owned company in July. The online initiatives started with the U.S. e-commerce site, which was revamped in August. To date, the improved calvinklein.com already saw year-over-year double-digit increases during the start of the online holiday shopping season (from Black Friday to Cyber Monday).
Global retail sales for the brand last year were in the ballpark of $7.8 billion, with upward of 20,000 points of sale worldwide. Distribution includes 3,000 retail locations — made up of freestanding stores, concessions and outlets — throughout North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe.
Shiffman declined to break out what portion of online sales make up the overall business, but was candid about the brand’s room for growth in the space. He cited Asian e-commerce statistics that project double-digit growth well out to 2020, and said the brand is keen to take advantage of that. Calvin Klein already has a significant presence in the region, with 1,800 points of sale (a combination of owned and operated and licensed).
“[E-commerce] in North America is decent but it has room for upward mobility. We expect the online business to grow at a significant rate,” he said. “It’s my vision to manifest the entire Calvin Klein lifestyle and have there be a digital flagship for us in each market.”
For now, the Chinese e-commerce presence is relegated to Alibaba’s Tmall.com, where Calvin Klein launched an official presence three months ago. More than half of traffic in China comes from mobile, with sales from mobile surpassing the 50 percent range as well.
While mobile adoption in the U.S. is still less than that of China, mobile traffic to calvinklein.com here has been increasing steadily between 40 and 50 percent year-over-year. Smartphone sales are growing, but at a slower rate than traffic, as customers still prefer to use desktops and tablets to transact. For instance, for the five days from Nov. 26 to Dec. 30, mobile comprised 40 percent of traffic for Calvin Klein and 20 percent of sales.
All of the brand’s e-commerce sites will sell broad assortments of licensed categories and product across men’s and women’s Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein Underwear. Categories like fragrance, apparel and accessories, home, performance and children’s will vary by region.
Each site will also have dedicated social media integration, with user-generated galleries containing images from the #mycalvins campaign. Since it began in February, Shiffman said the campaign has garnered 400 million impressions and 11 million engagements spanning 25 countries.
“The monetization of the hashtag has been pretty impressive,” Shiffman said of the #mycalvins campaign and of the logo underwear product, an initiative he stressed the company continues to pursue. “It still has legs and we’re going to further invest in social and commerce.”
The e-commerce portals not only serve as a way to integrate the brand’s social content, but also as a way to monetize it. He said influencers are adding product into their social content to increase conversion — and Calvin Klein’s operating platforms “exacerbate the opportunity in front of us.”
But content will extend beyond the confines of social. Shiffman is in the process of seeding regional teams that will create localized product-centric content. The message of the sites is and will remain the same though, with a global brand ethos infused throughout.
He maintained that capturing the vastness of the brand — product ranges from high-end ready-to-wear to underwear and denim to licensed categories like fragrance — is a point of differentiation. The challenge is maintaining one synergistic voice across all price points, verticals and markets.
“We’re both aspirational and also accessible. Not that many brands can do that. It’s a formidable opportunity for us,” Shiffman said. “We do control social and marketing because ultimately, the consumer has to see one brand. We can’t allow it to be fragmented. We have oversight with every aspect. I’m not going to say its heavily controlled because it’s not; it’s a partnership.”