BENGALURU, India — Euan Sutherland, who took over as British brand Superdry’s first external chief executive officer less than two years ago, has his eye on global markets.
On his first trip to India, Sutherland said he believes the country is one of the brand’s “three big power-heads,” along with China and the U.S.
Meanwhile, Superdry recently unveiled a new store format in the U.K. that it is likely to roll out worldwide. The brand, which sells in more than 100 countries, had sales of 486.6 million pounds, or $703.8 million at average exchange rates, in 2015. The U.K. has more than 100 of its 243 stores globally, but e-commerce and new markets are increasingly important.
There has also been more focus on collaborations: Last year, a 250-piece range in collaboration with British actor Idris Elba was launched, which was followed last April with a documentary on him and the brand’s founders Julian Dunkerton and James Holder.
In Bengaluru for the first store opening in the city, Superdry’s 15th in India along with brand partner Reliance Brands, Sutherland talked to WWD about global expansion, the focus on Asia and collaborations.
WWD: Will the new store concept launching this week in the U.K. lead in to a global change in Superdry stores?
Euan Sutherland: We are trying out the new format in two new stores — in Westfield, London and in Manchester. The intent is to test the new format in these stores, and if it works we have a program of retrofitting it in the entire business across the world.
These stores are representative of the design journey we’ve had in the last four or five years. Many of the Superdry stores still have graphic T-shirts and prints at the forefront of the story. But that’s only 20 percent of our range in many countries now — we have innovations in sport, in footwear, in a premium range — and we want to bring that to the front of the store.
So you will walk in, there will be a lot more mannequins, a very distinctive storefront. The upturned jam jars that you see in the stores here will be gone, there will be a lot of digital screens playing films that we produce ourselves — of our [product] range.
There are innovations in music technology, too. One of the things the customers say to us is that the music is quite loud in our stores — that is a big part of our DNA — but what we have is a new digital system which basically has speakers that are very low-lying, rather than being at the top, using a different wave technology. This means that the volume can remain, but you can have a conversation on top of it.
WWD: How much percent of your business comes from India/Asia at this time?
E.S.: We haven’t looked at it in those terms. India is an emerging market category for us. So if you think about our business almost in concentric rings, if you were to drop a pebble in the pond, we started our business in the U.K. — we are a relatively cool, exclusive, very British brand with a reasonable market share there. Then the next set of circles is the rest of Europe. Then there are the three big power-heads, India, China and the U.S.
WWD: In that order?
E.S.: No, the order would be India first, where we have 15 stores, then USA, where we have 14 stores and will open six new stores in the summer, and we have signed a joint venture in China.
WWD: You will open in China for the first time this summer?
E.S.: Yes, we will open our first three stores in China in July, in Beijing and Shanghai. We signed a deal for a joint venture last summer, and planned for a year to start. That’s indicative of our approach — we don’t rush into landing a shop wherever. We take a long time to make sure it’s the right location, the right storefront and spend a lot of money on that, because everything communicates for the brand.
WWD: Where will the six new stores in the U.S. open?
E.S.: Along the Northeast — New York, down to Philadelphia, up Chicago, all on that side.
WWD: How much of global sales do you expect from emerging markets have in the next five years?
E.S.: Where we’re going in the next five years is a third each — U.K., Europe and a third from emerging markets. And we’re growing at just over 30 percent every year. If you look at our turnover in 2015, it will not take too many years to get to a billion and beyond.
WWD: Does the rest of Asia feature in these plans?
E.S.: We have some of our most successful markets in Asia. Taiwan for example, is a hugely successful market for us, as is Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand…we have growth plans in all of these and they are also adding e-commerce. We have growth plans all over Asia.
WWD: E-commerce is growing fast, but is it a substantial part of your business?
E.S.: E-commerce is an approximate 20 percent; growing faster than bricks-and-mortar stores. We now have 21 local language web sites around the world.
More than half of our e-commerce sales come from outside the U.K. and the reason is that we have fully localized these, including in terms of local payment, local terms, express deliveries.
WWD: How are your global consumer demographics changing?
E.S.: We tend to have a very balanced business at the moment in terms of the age segment in our store, so its almost a third each for the three age groups — under 25, mid-20s to 30s, and over 30.
Men’s wear is a slightly higher percentage (60 percent), but women’s wear is our fastest-growing category for the last 18 months. We hired a female design team, female merchandising, female management team two years ago, so it is designed by women, for women.
WWD: After your collaboration with Idris Elba and the premium collection you launched last year, have you been inspired to collaborate with other actors/celebrities in other parts of the world?
E.S.: Idris Elba came as a genuine connection, it wasn’t one you could set up. Idris was shopping in our Regent Street store the day we had a board meeting. He was already wearing our product, he had been on British Airways magazine on the front cover with one of our bridge coats on, promoting Jaguar cars and we said, “Look, it would be great to come down to our office and stay around and talk.” It started like that, not like an agent-and-agent thing. It was absolutely spontaneous, and it fit perfectly. He was a British actor, a bit edgy and epitomized the brand in lots of ways. He also has a huge interest in fashion and was wearing our product!
If we are going to do a collaboration in the future, it would be along those lines. We would not just go and buy into an expensive A-list celebrity. That’s just not who we are. There would have to be a much more genuine connection.
David Beckham was very influential with our product in the early days because he came into the store and bought the product.