Ted Baker continues to move on from the Ray Kelvin era with the news this week it has appointed its first-ever US chief executive.
Ari Hoffman is a significant hire by group chief executive Lindsay Page, who replaced his former boss Kelvin earlier this year.
Hoffman has been a fashion industry executive for over 30 years, a dozen of which were spent with Yves Saint Laurent before the turn of the century.
He is also a seasoned chief executive. From 2001 Hoffman ran Gant USA for ten years, repositioning it as a contemporary American sportswear brand. He subsequently spent several years as CEO of Benetton USA and most recently ran the fashion brand Scotch and Soda.
Hoffman has a high profile in his home country where he is said to have a keen feel for the American fashion pulse and is frequently ranked among the industry’s most influential leaders.
As a British brand looking to compete in the ultra-competitive US fashion market Ted Baker represents a new kind of challenge for the New Yorker.
He describes himself as a fan and consumer of the brand, which is a good starting point. It helps too that he knows the US consumer inside out. Brands such as Ted Baker which wear their quintessentially British values on their sleeve can certainly find an audience in the US as the brand has already found to its benefit – retail sales are worth over £60m and are on the increase – but it shouldn’t be taken for granted that what works in the UK market can transfer stateside.
For one there are large regional variations in shopping habits and patterns that retailers need to adapt to. Americans also have extremely high expectations of customer service, which they expect to be responsive to their point of view.
Hoffman, on paper, looks a good fit for a brand that is in need of some positive news following a turbulent year which began with Kelvin resigning following accusations of harassment – allegations that are denied by Kelvin and continue to be investigated.
Group sales growth, meanwhile, fell substantially in 2018/19 as difficult trading conditions hit the UK and European markets.
Growing the US business won’t be a walk in the park. Like the UK, sales through traditional bricks and mortar stores have plateaued in recent years putting even greater emphasis on online growth.
Page will be banking that, with Hoffman at the helm, the good vibes will continue to flow from across the pond.