Burberry president and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey, who has been with the company since 2001 and prospered under the guidance of former chief exec Angela Ahrendts, is leaving the designer next year.
With just over a year until Bailey leaves, there is plenty of time for Marco Gobbetti, who took up the Burberry reins from French rival Céline in July, to find the right person to fill Bailey’s boots.
And what big boots to fill they are.
Gobbetti now has to find someone with respect for the brand’s British heritage but with the vision to grow the label creatively into a new era.
Burberry is set to announce its interim results next week — 9 November — and investors will be keen to hear what Gobbetti has planned as he leads the business beyond 2018 without Bailey.
Bailey’s 17 years at Burberry
Bailey became the company’s creative director in 2004 and has contributed to revenue growth of £2bn ($2.6bn) and — perhaps more importantly — has helped to regenerate the brand, turning it back into the aspirational label it once was.
Unlike Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein, Burberry has maintained its luxury brand image by steering away from cheaper clothing lines — which, while offering a short term financial boost, can often devalue a brand.
Meanwhile, Burberry’s partnership with beauty giant Coty has allowed it to diversify into beauty products while remaining focused on its core business and letting Coty take the lead.
Bailey — whose career at the company has ranged from design director when he joined in 2001, was made creative director in 2004, then chief creative officer in 2009, and became chief exec in 2014 before he stepped down as CEO in July this year but remained as chief creative officer — has modernised the brand, focusing on digital sales and the customer experience.
Bailey has done well prioritising the online channel at Burberry, with online sales growing and the use of the social media — especially WeChat in Asia — keeping the brand relevant.
Rivals aren’t resting on their laurels however. LVMH has launched its so-called 24 Sèvres, a website offering one-to-one video consultations with Parisian stylists, a Facebook style bot, and exclusives for international shoppers – something that will appeal to its Asian market.