Fresh on the heels of a change in ownership, Eton is preparing a brand makeover that will include a new logo, new packaging, new store design and new collections.
The revamp of the Swedish men’s shirt brand, which was founded in 1928, is intended to elevate the company’s standing in the global market.
On Monday night during New York men’s market week, Eton will host “Lost in Translation: Stockholm Edition,” a party at a 57th Street art gallery that will celebrate the brand’s new identity.
In late December, Swedish private equity firm Litorina IV LP sold its majority percent stake in the high-end brand to another private equity company, EQT VII. Litorina bought 53 percent of the brand in 2011 and since that time, the company has doubled its sales to $76 million from $35 million and tripled its operating profit, according to the company. Sales in 2015 were up 20 percent.
When the deal closes at the end of this month, EQT will own approximately 90 percent of the business with the founding family and management retaining a 10 percent stake.
Hans Davidson, chief executive officer of Eton and grandson of the founders, said transitioning to new ownership should serve the brand well because of EQT’s more “international” standing, “bigger network and more capital. We felt it was a perfect match.”
He said for the past year, the Eton team has been working on a new business plan to become the “number-one shirtmaker in the global market,” Davidson said.
The company said it is already the leading shirtmaker in the better-to-luxury segment of the men’s market in North America and Europe and is hoping to achieve the same standing in Asia, South America, South Africa and the Middle East.
Eton, whose average shirt sells for around $265, also produces men’s accessories such as ties and scarves.
The U.S. currently accounts for 36 percent of sales, Davidson said, with the Nordic countries at 30 percent. Other European countries such as Italy and Russia make up the remainder.
“The next step is Asia,” he said.
Eton is currently offered at more than 1,600 points of sale in 43 countries. There are 170 shops-in-shop as well as five flagship stores in New York, Stockholm, Copenhagen and both South Molton Street and Kingsway in London. There are also four franchised stores in Moscow, Los Angeles and Malmö and Helsingborg in Sweden.
Davidson said he would like to add larger stores in both London and Stockholm that would showcase all the brand has to offer. He also expects to add more in-store shops to support the wholesale business. Accessories will also be developed further, and Eton will work to increase its omnichannel business and social media initiatives as well as its presence in airports. “We’re very successful in the airports in the Nordic countries, but we want more,” Davidson said.
The ceo said that “in order for us to continue to grow the business, we had to change the way we are telling our story and presenting our product. We are excited to finally share what we have worked so hard for this past year.”
In the past two years, Eton brought more than 80 people on board and hired communication agency Tillsammans Sthlm, whose founder Johan Falk is spearheading the new brand positioning.
Falk said this is “one of the most complete brand revamps to date, including everything from the product presentation, store and e-store presence, brand identity and all the marketing channels that are available to marketers today. We are very happy with the result so far and we will keep evolving everywhere moving forward.”
The new brand identity was “inspired by the Swedish craftsmanship of generations of shirtmakers from the small village of Gånghester, Sweden,” where Eton started. The logo has been modernized and the ellipse has been removed. There is now a new signature color — Eton blue, which is derived from the Swedish flag — that will be used on packaging, labels and marketing materials.
The new store interior concept grows out of the brand’s Swedish legacy and includes light ash woods, tan leather, brass and stainless steel details. The Web site has also been fine-tuned.
Falk said that through consumer research, the company discovered that shoppers who try on an Eton shirt become fans, “but as good as the product is, the communication can be much better.”
In terms of collections, Eton’s primary business is in dress shirts, but the brand is hoping to increase its sport shirt penetration. Davidson said casual shirts now represent only 10 percent of overall sales, “so there’s great potential there.” He pointed to the Green Collection, the brand’s younger-skewed offering, as another opportunity for growth.
At the same time, “made-to-measure is very interesting,” he added. “In the coming year, made-to-order will be an important part of our business.”
Eton is not alone, however, in gunning for the number-one position in the shirt market. Last year, another European brand, Gant, also embarked on a major rebranding with the thrust centered around expansion in the U.S. market.
Davidson said Gant makes a good product, but it is focused more on the casual and more affordable end of the business, while Eton will continue to highlight luxury.
“Just resting on our laurels won’t take us anywhere,” Falk said. “We want to make Eton even better — that’s the aim.”