MCM opens UK flagship, plans US expansion, but Italy must wait for tourist upturn
MCM officially opened its UK flagship on Conduit Street on Tuesday evening with a brand celebration hosted by ‘chief visionary officer’ Sung-Joo Kim, plus a host of Korean celebs, including K-Pop singer Rain.
But behind the party atmosphere was a clear business aim as the brand focuses on growing its presence in what is currently one of luxury’s most buoyant markets, partly due to the weak UK currency.
Global CEO Paolo Fontanelli told Fashion Network: “Our London business is getting better and we want to see what this store can do because the tourist flow here is increasing. The Chinese don’t go to Paris now they go to London.”
Fontanelli said London has seen a trading uptick in the wake of the Brexit vote and the pound’s plunge. Although the rise is not yet enough to make up for weaker business in locations such as Paris, where trading has taken a hit due to lower tourist traffic there.
The UK business is smaller than that in key European markets such as Germany and France, but the brand is unlikely to open further UK standalones just yet with Fontanelli telling us he wants to concentrate on getting its wholesale distribution right.
“We’re in Harrods and already have a larger space there but we need to upgrade our wholesale distribution in stores like Selfridges. We are also opening in Flannels [the UK luxury chain].”
In fact, the US is a bigger target for the brand with 10 stores there already and the CEO saying next year will see a further four. The company is planning to open in Spain too, while also having Italy in its sights, although Fontanelli feels the time is not right to commit to an Italian standalone store debut.
MCM is available in a number of multibrand stores in the country and is in La Rinascente in Milan, but he prefers to wait for an upturn in the Italian economy and tourist trade before opening MCM stores. “We will open in Milan. I'm still looking at opportunities but unless you have a very strong tourist flow, which Milan at this point, like Paris, doesn't have, it’s better not to be there. It’s too early right now. Maybe one or two years.”
So for now the new UK store is the big news. Located almost opposite the still-new giant DSquared store and close to a longstanding Yohji Yamamoto store, Fontanelli said the location is a strong one.
“We love the store,” he told us. “We chose it partly because it was available and it was reasonable but also because Conduit Street is a good crossroad between Regent Street and Bond Street.”
Both the latter streets have heavy luxury foot traffic and Regent Street has become an accessories hub with the new Coach location, Kate Spade, Longchamp, Furla and Michael Kors all nearby.
The flagship covers more than 190 sq m over two floors with a simple, clean design that allows the brand’s high profile bags and clothing to do all the talking. Cute life-size leather dogs stamped all over with the MCM logo also add a touch of whimsy and are likely to appeal to the youthful tourist market that is a major target for the brand.
But the clean-lined decor was hard to see at the party on Tuesday evening as both floors were packed out and buzzing. Fontenelli said the event was the first of several the company will do to spread the word about the store, backed up bty awareness-building on social media.
“We are very active on the social media,” he told us, adding that digital is a priority not only for marketing but for retail too. “We launched our e-commerce last July but next year we’re really pushing on the digital front. It’s the future,” he said.
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