“The world is becoming more global,” is not just an ironic phrase; it’s a truth that has changed consumer behavior. Apple isn’t exclusive to the United States and Toyota isn’t a Japanese secret. It might not seem like it on the news, but from country to country, people are becoming more alike than not – or at least when it comes to the products they buy. If a product is on-trend and set at a great value, it can appeal to customers in the Middle East just as much as it appeals to a New Yorker. That mindset is a guiding principle for international fashion guru Vince Camuto.
“Australia is different than the U.S. and the U.S. is different from Brazil, but most women want the same things all over the world,” Camuto says. “It varies depending on the season, but if she wants a sandal, she wants a sandal and if she wants a bootie, she wants a bootie. We have good people that do good research and we’re satisfied that we are doing a good job of being on-trend and giving the consumer what she wants no matter where she is.”
Founded in 2001 and leveraging the more than 30 years of experience of its founder and CEO, The Camuto Group houses the capability to take ideas from the design floor and onto the retail floor. The company has done it as licensee or partner for brands such as Jessica Simpson, BCBG, Lucky, Tory Burch, Arturo Chiang and Sanctuary. Each brand is assigned a dedicated team that effectively links the right brain and the left brain – creativity and business acumen – to guide the process of design, sourcing, production, sales and distribution, marketing, advertising and public relations. It also has the resources to handle legal or financial issues that could arise during the process.
Its process has proven successful. Jessica Simpson’s brand has been marveled at for its billion-dollar, international status and the signature Tory Burch flat has stepped beyond the mundane to become synonymous with chic but comfortable footwear. Because of his background in the women’s footwear industry (Camuto is a founder of Nine West and served as its creative director for two decades) brands such as Lucky and Banana Republic have called on The Camuto Group to keep up the fashion in their footwear collections.
But the Connecticut-based company is not just a behind-the-scenes enabler of many other brands’ successes. Since 2009, The Camuto Group has managed its own in-house brands beginning with Vince Camuto. In 2012 it followed with a luxury counterpart, VC Signature and Two by Vince Camuto, which appeals to a more casual audience. In the spring of 2013, the company launched the women’s footwear line Louise et Cie. For the past year, The Camuto Group has grown its international presence, launching Vince Camuto retail stores exclusively carrying Vince Camuto-related brands on six continents.
Currently in more than 50 countries, the lifestyle brand spans more than 30 product categories including footwear, handbags, sportswear, dresses, jewelry, swimwear and fragrance. The Camuto Group also has 30 stores internationally with plans to continue growing.
“The company has an international division which works directly with in-country partners for the international wholesale and retail opportunities,” explains Leah Robert, executive vice president of licensing and marketing.
“Partners collaborate on all facets of the business from store openings and design to production, marketing and public relations.”
Vince Camuto took its first step into the global arena in 2009 with 10 shop-in-shops across South Korea. The spring of 2010 marked the opening of the first international freestanding store in Tunisia and this location was quickly followed by store openings in Israel, Mexico, Algeria, Ukraine, Taiwan and the Philippines.
The company says sales in Mexico have been particularly strong with current locations in Angelopolis Mall in Puebla, as well as Antara Polanco Mall, an upscale open-air shopping center in Mexico City. Plans for a new location in Santa Fe Center Mall in Mexico City are currently in development. Other locations opened this year within Latin America include the Dominican Republic, Panama and Honduras.
The company is also strong in Asia and the Middle East. In 2012, Vince Camuto stores opened in Dubai, including a 2,500-square-foot flagship location in the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment venue. The company has also partnered to open additional retail locations in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Morocco and Australia. Vince Camuto brands are also sold in various specialty stores globally, including in Thailand, Spain, Italy, Greece, Canada, Turkey and Russia.
“We have locations in the Middle East, Australia, Japan, Central and South America and Europe, and we just opened the first Vince Camuto store in London,” Robert says. “We have a multi-store plan for India and are working on opening up in China and Brazil; we also see opportunities in Canada. This is very much a global brand and in the next three years, we anticipate solid domestic and international growth.”
The plan for retail expansion includes the United States, beginning with the nation’s fashion mecca of New York City. The Vince Camuto flagship store operates in Soho at 537 Broadway and the brand just opened its first location on Fifth Avenue. With locations at Grand Central Terminal and on 34th Street, the store presence in the city continues to grow. Other locations in the state bring Vince Camuto’s New York presence to eight stores.
From there, Vince Camuto has expanded south and west with a store in Boca Raton, Fla., which opened in May. It has another shop under construction in the Fashion Show Mall on the Las Vegas Strip. Robert says the company plans to open brand stores throughout the United States and next will target cities such as Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Seattle. Although it has a firm vision in sight, Camuto says the privately held company is under no pressure to rush.
“We are continuously looking for opportunities and we want to find the right locations with the right economics,” Camuto says. “If it’s the right place, we will open a store. In India and China we have these big expansions because they have huge, growing populations. In the U.S., we are looking at every market’s real estate and possibilities.”
As the brand expands its retail locations, it is also expanding its product categories. The Vince Camuto label launched in 2009 to focus on women’s lifestyle with clothing, outerwear, footwear, purses and bags, fragrances and more. This year, it will launch its women’s activewear line and it just launched a second women’s fragrance.
The line also is stepping into the men’s arena. Last July, the brand launched a self-titled men’s fragrance, which continues to perform well at retail.. This year, the company has and will continue to add more categories in men’s lifestyle.
“The fragrance was one of the top new fragrances last year, and it’s still doing very well post-launch,” Robert says. “We now have men’s footwear, socks, coats and watches. This year we’re going to launch tailored suiting, sportswear, denim, shirts and ties. There are opportunities to expand so we really want to create a men’s identity and point of view. In 2014 and beyond, we are really going to drive the men’s lifestyle opportunities for Vince Camuto.”
The foray into menswear came after extensive research by The Camuto Group. Camuto says the team watches trends happening in the global fashion industry. One of those trends is the growth in men’s fashion; according to the NPD Group, a global leader in market research, men’s apparel grew by 4 percent last year. However, that growth came from consumers buying higher-priced and quality clothing rather than more clothing.
“You have to do your homework and be on track with what’s going on,” Camuto says. “I think consumers are more careful about what they buy. They know what they want to buy and at what moment they want to buy it. You have to be ready and have the product for them. It takes market research, dedication and being on-trend.”
Because Vince Camuto is an international name, the company’s designs have to appeal to a global consumer. Size runs and selection will vary depending on country and season, but the overarching theme is to be a true lifestyle collection, taking men and women “from day to night and from week to weekend – dressing them for every event in their lives,” Robert says. So even though the product mix may vary a bit in certain regions, there are key elements of the Camuto designs that travel with the family’s brands.
“Value and comfort are paramount to our success,” Camuto says. “We offer value and comfort at a great value and at a great price while being on-trend. The challenge every day is making sure we have the right product at the right price at the right time.”