Suzy Menkes reveals the story behind the sale of Jimmy Choo
The news that Michael Kors plans to buy Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion (£896 million) confirms that footwear is hot.
From Dior to Prada and Valentino, all luxury brands have footwear as a cornerstone of their retail strategies; it rivals handbags as the current cash cow.
Department stores from Harrods and Selfridges in London, Level Shoes in Dubai and New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue, all have vast areas dedicated to shoe business.
And the vibrant success of Christian Louboutin proves that a stand-alone fashion brand can be supremely successful.
Pierre Denis, CEO of Jimmy Choo, gave an insight into the success of the brand at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Muscat, Oman, in April this year.
Listen between the phrases and hear that the aim may well have been to whet the appetite of potential bidders for the company. They are rumoured to have included Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and international private equity houses.
Under his leadership, together with Sandra Choi, Creative Director and niece of the original founder, Jimmy Choo has enjoyed an average of 11% annual growth for the last four years, achieved through a mixture of new products, retail expansion and agile marketing.
In his speech, Pierre Denis explained how Jimmy Choo was “reaching new heights”. An 8.5cm heel is apparently the optimum height for their best-selling stilettos. He also underscored the growth of casualisation and the market for men’s luxury shoes.
While famous for its high heels, Denis revealed the second best-seller for Jimmy Choo as the Miami sneaker for women. He also anticipated that sales of men’s shoes would eventually account for 20% of the company’s business.
With an average price of £500, Denis said that shoes are still an accessible item. Perhaps that resonated particularly strongly with the board of Michael Kors, since the American brand has helped pioneer the concept of “accessible luxury”.
The idea that shoes can be the foundation of a lifestyle brand, including fragrances and bags, and without the need for ready-to-wear, might also have attracted the new owners.
Along with Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo has long been a major player in the luxury shoe game. But with competition from new and emerging shoe brands, as well as established fashion houses, the company is on a growth spree, investing in new stores and new marketing channels.
The aim is to reach the all-important millennial consumer – shoes being a particularly Instagram-friendly item. A current search revealed over 13 million posts tagged #jimmychoo, and 15 million tagged #louboutin.
As well as activities in social media, Denis used the conference to announce new joint ventures with partners from Korea to the Middle East. After the acquisition by Michael Kors, it seems like the Jimmy Choo heels will be made for walking – into new regions.
The Next Condé Nast International Luxury Conference, “The Language of Luxury,” will take place in Lisbon, Portugal on the 18 and 19 April 2018. Find out more at CNILuxury.com