As it enters its 70th year, the classic British brand is hoping to connect with a new market in the UK.
Its product offering has ranged from Terylene seatbelts to a hairdryer that doubles as a heater, but Kangol’s headwear remains its fame and fortune. And as it enters its 70th year, the brand is putting its focus firmly on what it does best.
A new website, www.388308.com, explains the brand’s development, from its birth in 1938 and its adoption by the hip hop scene in 1983 to its 70th birthday in 2008. Alongside history and information on the brand, the site also features Kangol’s spring 08 campaign, shot in Cleator, Cumbria – the site of the brand’s original factory – while the photos for the autumn 08 range use backdrops from historical London to reflect the brand’s heritage.
With Britishness forming the basis of Kangol’s identity, it seems ironic that the brand’s creative director for headwear David Wilson cites the UK as one of its least strong territories in terms of sales performance.
“The UK is one of our key targets for potential growth over the next three to five years,” he says. “While we are experiencing year-on-year growth of 10% to 15% in the US, and up to 100% in other emerging markets, we are not seeing this within the UK.
“Although the British heritage is integral to the brand, we need to think differently when selling this to the UK. For example, although we have customers who are the second generation of the 1980s hip hop movement, there are hundreds of possible consumers – those who wear suits and carry briefcases – who we are somehow failing to tap into. People in the UK don’t seem to want to wear hats as much as in other territories, and we need to find a way to overcome that.”
The company has shaken up its UK sales force, appointing Manchester-based Red Alert Agencies, which has worked with K-Swiss and Duffer of St George, to drum up sales in the north. Independent sales agent Kevin Buck will oversee southern sales.
“Over the past 18 months we’ve been working to refine our customer segmentation so that we have a product for all different types of consumer,” says Wilson. “We have designated groupings such as traditional, hip hop, skate and snow, sports, fashion follower, and fashion leader, in the hope that we can appeal to more areas.”
Autumn 08’s collection offers traditional tweeds and tartans reworked into a winter palette, and waxed cotton styles for rain protection, trend-led pieces in bolder colours and a variety of knits in a bid to create a more complete range.
The company has also been working with a number of retail partners that Wilson believes can help the brand break into the market it is currently missing. Selfridges is one, as is conceptual destination boutique Dover Street Market in London’s Mayfair. “These stores are taste-makers, and the fashion influence comes from them,” explains Wilson. “They can guide us as to how we should tackle selling to their customers, and that is really important knowledge for us.”
Kangol 01946 810 312
24%: The percentage of Kangol’s business that originates in the UK
504: The company’s most iconic hat style
1938: The year Kangol was founded