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When Rose Marie Bravo traded in one of the most prestigious jobs in retail to head ailing British retailer Burberry Group PLC six years ago, even her parents had doubts about her choice. As president of Saks Inc., owner of Saks Fifth Avenue stores, Bravo ran a flourishing operation from plush Manhattan offices. Burberry's, on the other hand, was then based in a downtrodden part of East London above the company's raincoat factory. The 147-year-old brand, best known for its trademark beige, red, and black plaid-lined trench coats, had lost much of its cachet. "They said, 'You're leaving Fifth Avenue for this?"' recalls Bravo, 52, a native New Yorker.
Bravo quickly changed all that. She hired some of the best creative, financial, and marketing brains in the business. After poaching up-and-coming designer Christopher Bailey from Gucci Group (GUC
) PLC, the new team pored over the brand's archives looking for ways to tap into its rich history. Today, Burberry is achingly hip. Ads featuring supermodel Kate Moss redefined its image. And four years ago, Burberry came out with plaid bikinis. That quickly turned into a cult item that brought a younger generation to the label.
Updated versions of Burberry classics such as this season's $1,095 fuchsia trench are must-haves for fashionistas. And Bravo's expansion into higher-margin accessories, fragrances, and baby wear are powering sales. Operating profits doubled to $115 million on revenues of $554 million during the six months ended Sept. 30, 2003. It's no wonder "doing a Burberry" is the aspiration of fading luxury brands worldwide.Key Accomplishments
-- Successful growth in the U.S. and expansion into higher-margin accessories and baby wear helped double operating profits to $115 million in six months ended Sept. 30.
-- Launched Burberry Brit perfume line, which should produce $100 million sales in its first year.