CEO letter | The Special Relationship

When Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘America is not a country, it is a world’, he captured a sense of both the opportunity and the challenge for British luxury brands looking to break into the world’s largest market for luxury. How do you create impact in such a vast country? How do you build critically important trade links in the market more than three quarters of you said was a priority growth market over the next five years?

The trick, of course, is to begin by establishing a strong foothold in a key territory. This is exactly why Walpole has chosen New York – which, at $25.5billion, accounts for a third of the US luxury market alone –for its latest luxury trade delegation. It’s a pretty good place to start.

By the time you read this, I will be somewhere over the Atlantic, heading for New York with a dozen Walpole members for a two-day trip to showcase the creativity and craftsmanship of our sector and to meet to key influencers, media and buyers. As Walpole Chairman and Harrods Managing Director Michael Ward says: ‘The US buys more luxury goods than any other nation and the objective of the trip is to encourage America to make more of those goods British’ 

The trip begins with a breakfast at the British Consul General’s office to launch Walpole’s new study, ‘Britishness & Brand Identity’ to the US media, followed by a panel discussion with CEO’s from the member brands and a morning of briefing and meetings, assisted by key contacts from the Department of International Trade, covering everything from the macro-economic and political landscape in the US to working with US department stores. After that, I will dive back to the hotel to brush my hair and change into a cocktail frock for dinner at the British Consulate General’s Private residence for 60 VIP guests. The following day, Walpole will host an inventive, immersive and contemporary showcase of British Luxury at Tribeca’s Spring Studios, with cocktails, a fragrance masterclass, bespoke shirt fittings, personalisation workshops and more for US media and buyers. It’s a packed 48 hours masterminded by Walpole’s Charlotte Keesing to make the strongest possible statement about the allure of British luxury for the US customer, whether buying British in America, or travelling to the UK.

For more on the Walpole British Luxury Showcase in New York, please click here.

To see images from the dinner at the British Consulate General’s residence in NYC, please click here.

To see images from the Walpole British Luxury Showcase at Spring Studios NYC, please click here.

When I wrote my first Newsletter back in February, I promised Walpole would be relentless in its quest to help members do better business overseas, regardless of the geo-political fault lines of Brexit and in other territories. Nearly 80% of what we produce is for export, and we are not only exporting beautiful things, but also exporting reputation, which helps to encourage overseas visitors to travel to the UK to experience our amazingly luxurious hotels and uniquely compelling culture.  All of this contributes to the economic growth of this country, and we should be rightly proud of that.

Our contribution to the UK economy is forecast to hit £50billion by 2019, and yet our sector isn’t recognised within our own government. Walpole, working with our fellow European luxury associations, gained sector recognition in the EU in 2012, and it seems to be to be vital for us to work to gain this recognition at home post Brexit.

Sector recognition is something to aim for. In the meantime, what else has Walpole been doing on your behalf to help our sector do better business overseas?

Walpole continues to work very closely with the EU as part of ECCIA (the European Cultural and Creative Industries Alliance). Charlotte and I are in Brussels again early next month for a meeting with EU officials and I will talk about market access for luxury brands. Other joint European initiatives include the work we do to retain the right to selective distribution, on IP, on digitisation, on counterfeiting and on promoting craftsmanship. Regardless of what happens after March 2019, EU legislation will continue to affect our businesses, and I am always so encouraged when I meet my European counterparts to hear their continued support for Britain and the commitment to keeping us at the table. No man is an island, and that is particularly true when it comes to luxury – 30-60% of the British luxury workforce are EU nationals and more than a quarter of our businesses are in international ownership. Working together will always be Walpole’s priority

Closer to home, it’s vital that we have a stronger voice when it comes to policy making. Given our sectors strength in non-EU markets we have important insights to share, and there is much the government could be doing for us at home and abroad to help us maximise our contribution to our country’s  economic strength. I was recently appointed Chair of the consumer goods advisory group for the All Parliamentary Group for International Trade and Investment, and I am delighted that ten Walpole member CEOs   have agreed to join me to lead a taskforce, pushing for policy change to benefit our sector. The potential wins here are not only improving the business context for us overseas but also investment at home. It’s essential that whatever we push for with ministers is informed by the needs of the whole sector so in the coming weeks you will receive a short online questionnaire asking you to share your business challenges – Walpole was created so that our sector might have a powerful  collective voice, and with your input I believe we can effect real change.

Finally, I am very much looking forward to seeing many of you on 30th October for our member event with The Royal Mint at the Tower of London (from coins to crypto-currencies, all you ever wanted to know about money) or on 1st November at our Luxury Think Tank, the thought-provoking and insightful summit Walpole and the French Chamber have put together.