A STUDY OF BRANDS / Kate Spade comes up trumps

A STUDY OF BRANDS / Kate Spade comes up trumps
Kate Spade New York Chief Executive Officer Craig Leavitt at the company’s Minami-Aoyama store in Tokyo.

With its colorful designs and bold patterns, Kate Spade New York prides itself on adding a playful touch to women's fashion.

In this 82nd instalment in a series on the world's high-end brands, Kate Spade New York Chief Executive Officer Craig Leavitt explained what sets his company apart and the importance of the Japanese market.

Leavitt was born in New York in 1960, and became CEO in 2008.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: What are Kate Spade's strengths?

Craig Leavitt: We started out as a handbag brand, but one of our key competitive advantages is that we have really developed into a global lifestyle brand. We have added important categories like apparel, jewelry, watches and fragrances...and shoes. This entire lifestyle of categories has really helped us more fully engage [our customers] with the brand.

Q: Are you expanding overseas?

A: We'll be opening our first store in continental Europe in Paris this year. We're also launching in Mexico to expand into central America later this year. Our global sales were over $460 million in 2012. We expect to end 2013 between US$700 million (S$871 million) and US$750 million. On a comparable like-for-like basis, we saw a 30 per cent growth in 2012. We launched apparel four years ago, and over the long term we expect that to be about 30 per cent of our business, and we are trending well toward achieving that goal globally.

Q: Is Japan's market unique?

A: Japan continues to be a great market, and we've been here for 17 years. Sales in Japan account for a little less than 30 per cent of Kate Spade's total sales. We still see meaningful opportunity for expansion. In Japan, our customer is confident in her style and likes to present herself with bold colour and be the life of the party. In the spring, we'll open a global flagship here in Tokyo in the Ginza area. We're very excited about that.

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