The Tommy Hilfiger chief executive tells Ana Santi how the brand has cashed in during the downturn by staying true to its roots.
You were promoted to chief executive of Tommy Hilfiger a year ago. What are the key initiatives you’ve introduced? Obviously, the brand was already successful when I became chief executive but I’m a product person so my focus has been on that - to consistently invest in product and keep the brand’s classic American cool signature intact. I’ve also been focusing on the gender split in the business, which is 50/50 now. We started as a menswear business but we know women shop more than men so there are opportunities to develop product in womenswear and accessories.
What further goals have you set yourself? There’s the opportunity to develop our men’s sportswear business, our denim line and our kidswear too.
We also have the potential to grow our sales in overseas markets, in particular Italy, France and the UK.
Talking about the UK, how is business faring here? We were slow to start off as a brand in the UK but over the past three years I’ve been very pleased with our results - we’re growing double digits year on year. The store on London’s Regent Street helped us a lot and we have a sizeable collection so we can respond on the product side to suit the UK customer, who favours less
colour but more fashion-led designs.
Our distribution is becoming even more selective in the UK now - we’re doing more business with fewer customers.
Your appointment as chief executive last October coincided with the global recession. How has this affected the running of the brand? I think it’s good to come into difficult times so that we open our eyes. But I’ve had to take a very strategic look at the business by looking closely at our inventory and cash positioning.
I have very different goals to what I had last year. It’s about being much more efficient now. We just have to wait until people start shopping again - we’re well placed to offer them what they want.
What about the premium market as a whole - what sort of impact has the recession had on it?
The premium market hasn’t been as affected as the luxury market, so our positioning as a premium lifestyle brand has helped us. In fact, the brand has grown over the past year. It’s to do with price. Customers have become more price conscious and consider their purchases. But they’re still impressed and surprised when they come to Tommy Hilfiger.
Where do you see growth coming from? We continue to believe that future growth can come from every region and product category within Europe. However, with reference to product categories, we foresee growth from our womenswear range. In terms of territories, we expect to see the highest growth in Eastern Europe and Asia.
What sets Tommy Hilfiger apart from its competitors? We believe our brand distinguishes itself from other designers by staying true to its classic, American, cool roots and offering beautiful, great quality designs at accessible price points.
Which is your favorite shop?
Peck in Milan. It’s a food store with an amazing sense of merchandising.
Who is your favourite designer?
Besides Tommy Hilfiger (pictured), I’m a great admirer of Karl Lagerfeld and Pierre Cardin.
What is your most treasured piece of clothing?
A suede leather jacket from Brunello Cucinelli.
Where is your favorite place to shop?
Italy, and more specifically Milan.