Homegrown on Singapore shores, Charles & Keith was founded in 1996 but has expanded to more than 300 outlets worldwide.
Charles & Keith is a fast fashion retailer that has achieved much international success. In 2011, luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) acquired 20% of the brand, a signal of LVMH’s commitment to expanding the brand to an even wider global audience.
How did Charles & Keith weather the economic downturns that shut down other fast fashion brands and achieve such global success?
1. High quality, sophisticated products that appeal to the trend-conscious consumer
Charles & Keith is known for producing high quality footwear and accessories inspired by runway styles and trends for the masses.
Charles & Keith produces an average of 1,000 new designs each year, with about 15-20 new designs being introduced into stores each week. Be it those summer strappy espadrilles, or the laetst oxblood patent brogues, there is always something for everyone.
Given the affordable price tag that is attached to these shoes and accessories, Charles & Keith positions itself in the ‘affordable luxury’ market, where trend-conscious, medium-high income consumers will have no qualms forking out some extra cash to buy the products they really like.
Word-of-mouth tip: Charles & Keith produces a good and consistent product that is informed by latest fashion trends. People trust Charles & Keith to always provide them with the latest in affordable fashion and it is this consistency throughout the years that has helped Charles & Keith to build up a loyal customer base that keeps coming back for more.
2. Strong social media presence and engagement of influencers
The Charles & Keith Instagram feed is sartorially curated, projecting an extremely fashion-forward image.
Square-cropped pictures of Charles & Keith merchandise clad on models walking the busy streets of Manhattan or relaxing in a Parisian sidewalk cafe are not uncommon sights.
Reposted pictures of fashionistas flaunting their Charles & Keith shoes and accessories are also popular, with the hashtag #Charles&Keith.
For example, this picture of fashion icon Rumi Neely garnered about 1.7k likes, with fans drooling over the shoes she wore. Charles & Keith promptly responded to eager fans, letting them know that Rumi was wearing the Cage Stilettos from the latest collection, available in black and burgundy.
Word-of-mouth tip: These days, everyone’s on Facebook and Instagram, following their favorite brands to be in-the-know of latest product releases. Maintaining a strong social media presence, featuring style icons wearing the brand and engaging with customers online will cultivate brand awareness and build strong brand loyalty.
3. Launch of ecommerce site
Charles & Keith launched its ecommerce site in 2004, in order to create a seamless online shopping experience.
The decision to go online was also motivated by the need to reach out to a larger international audience, specifically in markets where Charles & Keith did not have retail presence.
Currently, Charles & Keith ships to more than 70 different countries worldwide. A dedicated e-commerce team manages the entire operation to make sure that products are packaged neatly and shipped out efficiently
Word-of-mouth tip: The e-commerce trend is taking off and has seen explosive growth in the last few years. Statistics show that 40% of internet users around the world have bought a product online before. There are currently more than 1 billion online buyers and this number continues to grow. Having an e-commerce platform makes a product easily available to anyone, wherever in the world they may be.
4. Prominent and accessible store locations
Charles & Keith stores are found in major shopping districts, in prominent locations that are easily accessible.
In Singapore, where Charles & Keith’s homebase is located, retail outlets can be found in ION Orchard and 313 Somerset, two major shopping malls in Orchard Rd, but also in suburban malls in Bedok and Toa Payoh.
When Charles & Keith first expanded to Japan, its first retail outlet was strategically located in Harajuku, the heart of Tokyo’s major fashion district.
Word-of-mouth tip: Even in a digital age where most brands are taking their presence online, it is important to maintain brick-and-mortar stores in prominent shopping locations that people frequent. An attractive shop display is the best way to naturally draw customers in via WOM.
Recap: What were the factors that led to Charles and Keith’s success?
- High quality and trendy products with a variety of designs, at decent prices – establishing an ‘affordable luxury’ niche.
- Good use of social media and influencers.
- Jumped on to the e-commerce boat early and expanding it’s reach to 70 other countries.
- Choosing strategic locations for it’s stores to gain attention and reach customers, keeping the brand in the spotlight.