ASPREY & GARRARD SPLIT FINALIZED, A&G GROUP BORN

Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

NEW YORK — The divorce is final — but the settlement is slightly lower than initially projected.
Today, Asprey & Garrard is splitting into two separate brands, turning the firm’s Fifth Avenue flagship into an Asprey unit and reversing the union formed in 1998 under previous owner Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei.
The split is part of a major strategy by owners Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, who bought the company in July 2000, to compete with such luxury firms as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Gucci and Tiffany.
Gianluca Brozzetti, who joined Asprey & Garrard as global chief executive in June 2001 from Louis Vuitton Malletier, said Friday that both brands will now operate under a newly created holding group, A & G Group. Within five to 10 years, he said, A & G’s strategy involves rolling out a slew of Asprey & Garrard stores globally while preparing the holding group for an initial public offering.
The current strategy for both brands is more conservative than first planned, however. Last September, Brozzetti detailed plans for 20 Asprey stores over the next five years and up to 70 within the next decade. For Garrard, the aim was to open 10 stores by 2006, with an eventual goal of 20 by 2010. The ambition was for the two companies to generate sales approaching an estimated $1 billion within the next five years and stores in top markets around the globe.
But on Friday Brozzetti was more cautious, perhaps reflecting the changed mood in the luxury goods sector overall. The plan now is for Asprey to open 10 stores by 2007 and 40 by 2012. For Garrard, the company is planning to open two stores in London and New York by 2007 and 10 stores by 2012.
As reported, the firm will open a 28,000-square-foot Asprey store at Trump Tower in what’s likely to become one of the largest and priciest retail projects in Manhattan. The new store will be similar to the London flagship, which closed today and is being renovated at an estimated cost of $50 million. Both are slated to bow at the end of 2003. Starting in 2004, the company will roll out more Asprey stores, initially in the Asia-Pacific region followed by Europe and the U.S.
Garrard will open on London’s Albermarle Street in September, and the search is still on for a suitable location in New York. The New York location could be in a similarly off-track area as the London Garrard, Brozzetti said. “Garrard is more of a destination store; we don’t need a lot of passing foot traffic.”
In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, Asprey & Garrard Group registered consolidated revenues of over $70 million, with two stores, in London and New York, and a showroom in Beverly Hills. By 2012, Brozzetti aims to make Asprey a $400 million lifestyle brand, and Garrard a $100 million jeweler.
Brozzetti added that the company is planning conservative growth for the first five years, because costs will run higher at a time “dedicated to validate the concept” with extensive renovations and new product introductions.
If the firm meets plan, it will proceed with a public offering in the second half of its 10-year strategy. “But we’d want to keep a careful eye on time, and make sure we create value for shareholders,” he said.
Brozzetti negated rumors that the company is looking to sell off Garrard to focus on Asprey, but he said it studied and evaluated the demerger and decided to go ahead with initial plans.
“The A & G holding company owns both the Asprey and Garrard brands,” he said firmly, adding that each will have independent marketing, design and retail strategies, but share a common service center, operational logistics and financing.
Asprey was founded 220 years ago. The company last September hired Hussein Chalayan as creative director for ready-to-wear, Alessandra Gradi for jewelry and Thierry de Baschmakoff for silverware, leather goods, watches, homeware, eyewear and fragrances. Brozzetti said that new Asprey jewelry should start hitting stores by June, with more category launches planned for fall and holiday. The complete offering will be available once the refurbished stores open. To keep the brand’s image narrow and exclusive, there are no initial plans for wholesale distribution.
As for Garrard, previously considered a sleepy, classic brand with little potential beyond the U.K., Jade Jagger was appointed creative director to turn the label around. Her team includes British jewelry designer Francesca Amfitheatrof and designer Tamsin De Roemer.
The New York store will continue to trade until Dec. 26, and then start a phased renovation during which Asprey hopes to continue trading. “It will be a challenge, but we’d prefer to do that than to move to a temporary location,” said Philip Warner, Asprey & Garrard’s U.S. president who will now assume the same post for A & G.

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