REV: APRIL 5, 2004
It was the summer of 2003, and Rose Marie Bravo, the chief executive of Burberry, was reflecting on the past five years. Much had changed since Bravo had assumed leadership of the company in 1997. Prior to her arrival, Burberry had been a brand heavily reliant on licensing and distribution arrangements and a limited set of products. But Bravo and her team had spent most of their energy over the last few years “redirecting” things—everything from overhauling the company’s distribution strategy to revamping the company’s product line. The results had been sensational: Burberry was now considered one of the leading luxury brands in the world. Sales at Burberry reflected the renewed popularity of the label; revenues had grown from about £225 million in fiscal 2000 to almost £600 million in fiscal 2003. (See Exhibits 1 and 2 for Burberry financials.) Bravo had even managed to successfully steer Burberry through an initial public offering of 22.5% of its shares in the summer of 2002 amid choppy market conditions. Still, Bravo and her team knew that the next five years were going to be crucial. Bravo’s goals were to maintain the currency and cachet of the brand across its broad customer base, while entering new product categories and expanding distribution.
Burberry was founded in 1856, when 21-year-old Thomas Burberry opened a draper’s shop in Basingstoke, England. Shortly thereafter he invented gabardine, a waterproof and breathable fabric that quickly became the fabric of choice for anyone venturing out into extreme conditions. Burberry’s trench coat was chosen to be the official coat of the British Army in World War I, and a 1930s marketing campaign declared, “For safety on land, in the air or afloat, there is nothing to equal the Burberry coat.” (See Exhibit 3 for Burberry timeline.)
The Burberry check pattern—a camel, black, red, and white plaid design—was introduced in the 1920s as a lining to its signature trench coat, and became a registered trademark. Over the ensuing years, celebrities, well-known adventurers, and politicians were often seen in the Burberry “check.” The trench coats were worn by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, by Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther, and by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They were also donned by famous aviators, balloonists, and expeditionists seeking to conquer the South Pole and Everest. Burberry’s original designs and uncompromising quality even made the brand popular with British royalty; King Edward VIII, a regular Burberry wearer, was known to say: “Give me my Burberry!” As a result, the brand increasingly became a symbol of both luxury and durability. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professor Youngme Moon, Erika Kussmann, Emma Penick, and Susan Wojewoda (MBAs ’03), and Research Associate Kerry Herman, Global Research Group, prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.
In 1955, Great Universal Stores Plc. (GUS)—a British holding company that ran a home-shopping network and other businesses—bought Burberry. By the 1970s, the Japanese had discovered the brand’s iconic check, and GUS management had agreed to license the brand...
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