BURBERRY’S TEST FLIGHT

Byline: Anamaria Wilson

NEW YORK — Burberry is adding a third string to its bow — the company will trial run a lower-priced line, called the Field Collection, in its New York and London stores this fall. “It’s a very small test that we’re doing and it won’t be until fall,” said Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Burberry USA. “It’s a small piece of the collection.”
The Field Collection grows out of the company’s longtime Thomas Burberry line, which was launched in the Eighties in an attempt to attract a younger, hipper customer. But Thomas Burberry never caught on and has been quietly sidelined in the last few years, apart from such markets as Spain, where it has been successful. Burberry instead has focused on building sales of its London and Prorsum lines under the leadership of group chief executive Rose Marie Bravo and new creative director Christopher Bailey.
Ulasewicz declined to provide further details of the Field Collection in advance of the trial, but the test will come at a crucial time for the company. Burberry and its parent Great Universal Stores PLC continue to prepare for an initial public offering of up to 25 percent of Burberry’s shares. GUS executives insist the IPO will go ahead before June if market conditions — not exactly favorable to luxury goods shares at the moment — are right.
The IPO and launch of the Field Collection also will come as Burberry rolls out several major stores in the U.S. and Europe. The first of these opened 10 days ago in SoHo here at 131 Spring Street, making Burberry the latest luxury brand to move downtown.
The 5,000-square-foot space mixes traditional Burberry elements of oak shelving, brushed chrome fixtures, red glass and, of course, touches of the signature Burberry plaid. In order to remain in keeping with the store’s loft-like feel, the exposed air-conditioning ducts, old columns and tin ceilings were left intact. Homey touches like framed black-and-white photos from old Burberry ad campaigns line the shelves around the store.
“We wanted the store to blend in with the neighborhood and also to add some elements of British wit,” said Ulasewicz.
These witticisms, executed by Diane Gatterdam, global vice president of visual merchandise for Burberry, include Beatles’ lyrics bordering some of the walls and a colorful collage made up of clips from British tabloids covering a back wall. Another humorous touch is a revolving dry-cleaning rack of Burberry raincoats with glass raindrops suspended above it. “We didn’t have enough space to display all the coats, so we found the rack and decided to have some fun,” Bravo said.
The store carries the Burberry Prorsum collection and the Burberry London line along with novelty items such as a Burberry leather bikini, a surfboard and a skateboard — aiming to appeal to the store’s downtown customer.
Prices range from $295 to $595 for blouses and $150 to $500 for pants, while the average price of jackets is $1,200.
“The merchandise in the SoHo store will be more edited than our uptown store because it’s much smaller,” said Ulasewicz. “But also the merchandise here will definitely be edgier. We’ll pull the most fashionable pieces for this store. The SoHo customer really understands fashion and affordable luxury.”
Opening the SoHo store is just a prelude to the 30,000-square-foot flagship Burberry plans to open this fall in the 7-9 East 57th Street building it purchased last May. The company, whose sales for 2001 were $630 million, also is opening stores this year in Coral Gables and Orlando, Fla., and San Jose, Calif. Store openings abroad include Barcelona and Knightsbridge in London.

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