LK Bennett is making its U.S. comeback. Under new ownership, the London-based brand is looking to expand.
In 2019, Rebecca Feng, the retailer’s Chinese franchise partner, set up Byland U.K. Ltd. in order to acquire the company, which was seeking bankruptcy protection at the time. Since then, LK Bennett has been experiencing a revitalization under CEO Darren Topp’s guidance.
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“What we’ve been doing is rebuilding the brand and bringing it back to its roots,” Topp told FN. In 2022, sales grew 30% over the previous year, according to the exec.
While 80% of the business comes from the U.K., Topp is expecting the majority of sales to shift within the next five years to outside its home turf.
“We’ve got a strong European presence,” he explained. “But we do believe that we’ve got real potential both in America and the Middle East, as well as with our existing strong position in China.”
Courtesy of LK Bennett
Like many British brands, LK Bennett struggled to sustain long-term success in the U.S. in its previous attempt during the 2010s. However, it now has a new approach.
“There was a reasonably-sized business but it didn’t make any money. That’s a fundamental flaw,” Topp said. “What we’ve done this time is go wholesale first and build the business through partnerships as opposed to opening 10 standalone stores.”
He said the company is focused on entering the market primarily with a digital approach for both its wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses. It already has U.S. e-commerce site that launched this year.
“The reason why we weren’t making money before happened because we were paying some extortionately high rents for some stores,” Topp said. “Now it’s a digital-first strategy, we’ll take our time and hopefully, over time, we’ll build a physical presence.”
The CEO still believes strongly in brick-and-mortar, though. Last year, LK Bennett opened three new stores in U.K., with plans for more in 2023.
What’s fueling momentum overall, Topp said, is a combination of physical and digital with further investment in the development of the product. “When we bought the business, we invested heavily in the digital platform, and in the digital offer, so consequently, over half of our sales are now online,” he said, pointing to strong online partners such as Selfridges and John Lewis.
Collaborations and continued celebrity placements on influential figures such as Kate Middleton are also a plus. Another point of growth for the brand comes in product extensions. Historically, LK Bennett (which was founded by Linda Bennett in 1990) was known for its work shoes and classic pumps. While those are still a sales driver, Topp said they make up an increasingly a smaller proportion of the collection, which now includes a broader range of styles, from boots to sandals.
Courtesy of LK Bennett
“We decided early on that we were not going to compromise on quality, workmanship, craftsmanship, the amount of time we spend on design, the quality of materials, and that we were going to be genuinely committed to delivering the best possible product we can,” said Topp. “We’ve really invested in the development of the product, the development of the brand, in order to, for all intents and purposes, relaunch.”
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