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After years on autopilot, men’s lifestyle brand Melka is back with a new owner and a renewed sense of ambition

There are lots of buyers who remember Melka fondly because they used to make serious money from the brand,” says BMB Group sales and marketing director Kevin Stone. “That brand awareness is a fantastic springboard for BMB’s relaunch of Melka.”

Having acquired the Swedish menswear label from UK brand stable Jacques Vert in May last year, BMB is now delivering Melka’s first range under its new ownership. “When it launched in the 1960s Melka had a very contemporary look. It had an outdoor handwriting and a sense of humour. We’ve looked at the archives to recapture its essence.”
Melka first arrived in the UK 15 years ago, landing in a market obsessed with German brands. Despite its Swedish roots the UK market understood Melka from the outset. “But over time the brand wasn’t advertising and it lost sight of its lifestyle credentials. More importantly its customers were getting older and the brand was failing to reinvent itself,” says Stone.

From autumn 09 Melka’s design is being handled by creative agency Joe Baker Design, which also helps develop collections for Henri-Lloyd and Canterbury of New Zealand, among others. Stone says: “We want the brand to have an image based around inland activities, with an outdoors personality.”
In January the brand will also launch Melka Gold, a more directional shirt-led sub-brand that will deliver for autumn 09. “We want to be the Ben Sherman of Scandinavian shirting,” says Stone.

Targeting a customer in their mid-to-late 20s and retailers with brand adjacencies such as Acne and Nudie Jeans, Melka Gold will have a separate distribution to the mainline, which in adjacency terms sits between Cottonfield and Gant. Melka Gold will initially target Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Japan and the UK. “If we get 15 accounts in each market, including players like Urban Outfitters, that would be perfect,” says Stone.

Internationally, Melka has made significant statements, opening concessions in the Lisbon and Porto branches of El Corte Inglés in Portugal, and shop-in-shops in the Brussels and Bruges sites of Belgian department store chain Inno. As well as the eight existing standalone stores in Belgium, BMB is now looking for potential flagship locations in Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden.

Closer to home, a 200sq ft shop-in-shop opened in indie department store Browns of York earlier this summer. The brand has been invited to private buying exhibition IMC and already has 150 UK stockists for autumn 08. It has 2,000 doors across Europe.

Stone admits that before the acquisition, Melka’s deliveries and quality were inconsistent. “These were the first areas we addressed. For BMB it’s all about ensuring deliveries arrive on time, there is a consistency of manufacture, we develop co-ordinated collections and sell to the right stores. Once those are in place we can think about adding women’s and kids’ wear.”

Melka 020 7297 6890



150: Number of UK accounts
2,000: Number of doors across Europe
£20 million: Current international sales
£50 million: International sales in Melka’s mid-1990s heyday

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