The Kooples boosts handbags strategy with Irina Shayk, Stella Maxwell, Zayn Malik

More than the launch of a handbag, what French men’s and women’s label The Kooples did last year was deploying a new growth, marketing and communication strategy. Working with celebrity model Emily Ratajkowski, The Kooples spawned a full range of handbags (no less than 120 items in a year) and took a first bite at the accessories segment. And the label is now hungry for more.


Irina Shayk and Stella Maxwell in the brand's autumn/winter 18/19 campaign - The Kooples

Indeed, according to Nicolas Dreyfus, General Manager of The Kooples, speaking to FashionNetwork.com, the results have been both positive and promising. “We sold more than 25,000 handbags in a year, we’re absolutely delighted. The launch of the Emily handbag enabled our accessories business to grow by leaps and bounds, exceeding our expectations. In the current financial year, the share of total revenue generated by accessories will increase from 7% to 11.1%, something which bodes very well for the future!” said Dreyfus.
 
The target of generating a 15% revenue share with accessories now seems closer than initially forecast. “We believe [the accessories’ share] could reach 17% next year, and I think a 30% share could be on the cards in two years,” added Dreyfus. The Kooples is making a determined effort to jump on the wagon of the leading affordable luxury handbag players, like Michael Kors, Coach, Tory Burch and Kate Spade, “with a difference, thanks to our style, which has more of a rock vibe, to our French touch and Italian manufacturing,” said the general manager of the label, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
 
Indeed, The Kooples is going to double, even treble, its efforts. Next autumn, it will start new collaborations with three international celebrities, jointly launching the Irina, Stella and Zayn models, named after Irina Shayk, Stella Maxwell and Zayn Malik. The Russian model is endorsing an uber-feminine handbag, the British model a shoulder bag with metal chain strap and a cool rock mood, while the former One Direction singer opted for a backpack. No more couples at The Kooples, but top individual names instead.
 
Like the Emily, the new models will feature a range of sizes, looks and colours as they hit the market in September, and will then come out with new, limited-edition versions in the following months, all with an average retail price of €400. According to the label, what is crucial is the total involvement of the three celebrities who, it must be said, will receive a percentage on the sales of their models.


Nicolas Dreyfus - The Kooples
 
The Kooples calls the three its co-designers, and it is keen to leverage the nearly 60 million Instagram followers they tot up altogether. This is the crux of the matter for the French label, which is out to woo millennial consumers through a strategy of celebrity-endorsed handbag launches. “Already, our clientèle is really getting younger,” said Nicolas Dreyfus. “We were able to tap [younger consumers] thanks to the Emily bag, which we supported also with a 30% increase in digital advertising investment,” he added.
 
Accessories-only stores

In the autumn, The Kooples expects big results again in terms of social media engagement rate, and in terms of conversion rate both in-store and online (20% of Emily bags have been sold on the web). The label’s approach also hinges on its retail network: all of The Kooples’s four hundred stores worldwide will feature the new models, but the latter will also have their own dedicated shops.

After a test with the Emily’s launch, the rue des Rosiers store in Paris has been converted to an accessories-only shop, with handbags centre stage. The same will happen with the rue Royale store, in Paris again, for next September’s launches. The handbag-based store opened at Nice airport in 2017 also proved successful, and The Kooples will be looking for new locations in airport and railway station shopping arcades in the future. It has already signed up for a place in the Montparnasse shopping gallery, which is set to open in Paris in 2020.

The label is currently opening only a handful of new stores, as it prefers to concentrate its investment on handbag and product development activities, and digital tools. However, new stores will open in China, with a distribution partner found in 2017, also supported by the launch of a handbag model created with a Chinese designer the label is currently seeking.

“Why change the recipe if it works? We reckon we can go far with this strategy, it’s genuinely spot-on and it speaks to a generation of consumers we want to appeal to, both women and men, hence the choice of Zayn Malik, and it does so all over the world,” said Dreyfus. Accessories and e-tail have in fact been the two main growth drivers in the financial year closing at the end of August, after a period in which revenue was stable. Total sales for The Kooples and The Kooples Sport are expected to reach €230 million, equivalent to a 5% rise, and virtually the same for comparable sales, considering the very limited increase in the number of stores.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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