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Kurt Geiger hits US after buyout

Kurt Geiger will dip its toe into the US wholesale market this year, following a £95 million secondary buyout of the luxury footwear retailer by private equity group Graphite Capital.

Kurt Geiger will wholesale its French Connection range, which it produces under licence, to US department stores for autumn 08, marking the footwear company’s first foray across the pond.

The launch is likely to be a precursor to a wider push into the international wholesale market. Kurt Geiger also owns the licence for Agent Provocateur footwear, which it launched in the UK last year.

Chief executive Neil Clifford led a secondary buyout of the business from Barclays Private Equity earlier this week, as revealed exclusively at Drapersonline.com.

Kurt Geiger’s like-for-like sales were 5% ahead for the year to January 2008, which could put EBITDA as high as £10 million for the year.
The performance is in stark contrast to several other footwear specialists, which saw sales and profits collapse in 2007.

Earlier this year both Dolcis and Stead & Simpson went into administration, but Kurt Geiger’s success can be attributed in part to its luxury positioning, which has not been as hard hit by the downturn in consumer spending. Investment in own-label product has also differentiated the retailer from its rivals.

Kurt Geiger also plans to press ahead with international and UK retail expansion this year. It will open stores in Leicester, Bristol and London’s White City later this year, and has also inked a deal with Landmark to open stores in the Middle East.

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