Clothing brand Boden is planning another breakthrough in the US, joining a growing number of UK retailers who are finding success in a market that has historically proven difficult.
The high-end women’s and children’s clothing brand already has more sales in the US than in the UK and is growing faster there. In the first half of 2022, its sales in the United States increased by 10% at constant exchange rates and customer acquisitions increased by almost half.
Glen Senk, executive chairman, told the Financial Times that there are significant opportunities to sell more women’s clothing in the United States and become less reliant on catalog marketing.
“The current supply is consistent with the UK, but there is an opportunity to localize it,” said the American retail veteran who last year became the third foreigner to run the family business. “And there are aesthetic nuances between parts of America as there are in Europe.”
Senk is best known for his 18 years at Urban Outfitters, where he transformed Anthropologie into a billion-dollar brand. He has known Johnnie Boden for many years, the former Eton-trained stockbroker who founded Boden in 1991.
He sees Anthropologie as a guide to what Boden could accomplish. “If you look at that and J Crew, they’re very close to Boden and yet they’re both $1 billion brands.”
Boden said he aims to double the group’s sales over the next few years, although he hasn’t set specific goals for the United States. He will shortly file accounts with Companies House showing revenue in 2021 hit £357m ($408m), up 7% on the previous year as buying habits started to decline. normalize since the pandemic. Annual profits increased by 2%, reflecting higher return rates and higher shipping costs.
An avowed Anglophile, Senk said the quintessentially British Boden was playing well in the US market. “The fact that we are a British company is very important. Americans love the UK and have long been fascinated by British music, fashion, art and theatre.
The key to growth was “knowing what to globalize and what to localize” and understanding cultural preferences, he said. “Our bestsellers are our bestsellers everywhere. The long tail is where the differences are, but you have to get it right to maximize your sales.
U.S. consumers prefer to show their arms than their legs and are less sniffy about wearing synthetics, he noted, when weather variations are much greater. “About half of Americans live warm all year round. They don’t think of bathing suits as just for vacation.
The US has often been a daunting market for UK retailers and there have been high profile failures such as Tesco’s ill-fated Fresh ‘n Easy US venture and Marks and Spencer’s mishaps with Brooks Brothers.
But more recent expansion has been effective there; more than a third of Watches of Switzerland’s sales now come from the US, while WHSmith has made inroads into the US travel market and the country is the fastest growing location for retailer Primark.
Senk said Boden would retain its famous print catalogs, but they would play a lesser role in its marketing. “There’s been a shift in the way people shop,” he said. “Educated upper-middle-class people usually start their journey on a smartphone.”
He added that he had “committed to spending two or three days a week for two or three years” leading the push in the United States. Boden remains creative director.
“Johnnie may want to sell some or all of his stake at some point,” Senk acknowledged. “But that’s not on the table now.”