Can Burberry’s Daniel Lee help the brand catch up to Gucci? The former Bottega Venetta icon just replaced Riccardo Tisci as creative director as the British luxury brand’s sales drop below its rivals

Can the dream team of Daniel Lee and Jonathan Akeroyd turn around Burberry’s fortunes? Photo: Reuters

Burberry’s new chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd is due to set out his plan to finish the job started by his predecessor – boosting growth at the British luxury brand to the levels of its European rivals.

Akeroyd, who took over in April, will present his strategy this November alongside first-half results that will show the lingering impact of lockdown restrictions in China, Burberry’s biggest market.
Jonathan Akeroyd was appointed the new CEO of Burberry in April. Photo: Versace
He has already made his key appointment in choosing Daniel Lee to replace Riccardo Tisci as chief designer at the 166-year-old label.

Burberry has lagged behind competitors like Gucci, Prada and Loewe in creating a sharp brand in recent years, and Lee will play an “important part in re-igniting interest”, said Mario Ortelli, managing partner at advisory firm Ortelli&Co.

Lee, who was previously at Kering’s Bottega Veneta, should focus on strengthening its runway, streetwear and menswear collections to appeal to younger consumers, said Ortelli.

Bridgerton star Simone Ashley’s 13 most daring outfits, from Gucci to Prada

Kim Kardashian with her close friend Riccardo Tisci, the former Chief Creative Officer of Burberry, in New York in 2019. Photo: AFP

That group is expected to buoy growth in the sector in the coming years with purchases being made from the age of 15, according to industry forecasts from consultancy Bain.

Burberry should also expand its leather goods and footwear business, Ortelli said. Leather goods account for around 20 per cent of Burberry’s sales versus 70 per cent at Bottega Veneta.

The company’s former chief executive Marco Gobbetti set out a plan in 2018 to reposition the brand, known for its camel, red and black check, firmly in the luxury segment.

Burberry’s store sales increased by only one per cent in its quarter ending July 2. Photo: Bloomberg

He raised prices, limited distribution to its own shops and high-end department stores and cut discounting. Tisci, in turn, changed Burberry’s design language by introducing a TB monogram, that increased the brand’s appeal to younger luxury consumers.

The final stages of Burberry’s five-year plan were expected to see an acceleration in revenue growth and an increase in profits. But the Covid-19 pandemic thwarted that aim, with lockdowns closing stores and travel restrictions preventing tourists from Asia and elsewhere spending in Paris and London.

Can Burberry turn its fortunes around with the help of Jonathan Akeroyd and Daniel Lee? Photo: Bloomberg

The label eked out a one per cent rise in comparable store sales in its quarter ending July 2.

Burberry’s rivals – led by French luxury leaders LVMH and Kering – in contrast, have most recently reported double-digit sales growth in the quarter to the end of September.

LVMH’s fashion and leather goods division, home to Louis Vuitton and Dior, reported a 22 per cent rise in sales on a comparable basis, while Kering’s sales rose 14 per cent, although revenue at its star label Gucci rose 9 per cent, missing market forecasts of 11 per cent.

How do you turn an NFT into a luxury good? Lessons from Tiffany and Dictador

Akeroyd and Lee will seek to emulate the feat of Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri and creative director Alessandro Michele, who set a template for creating buzz at well-established luxury brands, increasing profit nearly fourfold between 2015 and 2019.

Lee’s appointment could signal a re-evaluation of Burberry’s British heritage, according to Lydia Slater, editor in chief at fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

Riccardo Tisci (second from the right) introduced the TB monogram at Burberry, which helped increase its appeal among Gen Z customers. Photo: EPA

“Lee’s interpretation of that heritage is likely to be the opposite of conventional, given the iconoclastic way he transformed Bottega Veneta from a discreet luxury brand into a cult, directional label,” she said.

The Bradford-born designer became famous for reinvigorating the Italian brand by blowing up its famous intrecciato weave in bags and shoes and creating one of the most popular colours of 2021, dubbed “Bottega Green”.

Akeroyd has a track record of turning around established brands such as Alexander McQueen and Versace, analysts say.

“Over the longer term, brand reinvigoration should help keep fashion fans loyal and Burberry’s products increasingly coveted,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
  • As Burberry lags behind competitors Gucci and Prada, the 166-year-old British brand’s new CEO Jonathan Akeroyd hopes to switch things up with new hire Daniel Lee
  • Louis Vuitton’s parent company LVMH reported a 22 per cent sales increase in the second quarter, and Gucci’s rose 9 per cent – but Burberry’s only saw one per cent