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Checklist for Ahrendts: Burberry CEO in Drive To Hone Brand's Image

When Angela Ahrendts took over the helm of Burberry last year, one of her mantras was "innovate and elevate." The staff listened, and now the Burberry chief...

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Over the past year, Burberry's growth spurt has been coming mainly from a sharper approach to the collections and steadier flow to market. In March 2006, Burberry introduced its Icons accessories collection, which is filled with products including handbags, shoes, skiwear and silk pajamas bearing various Burberry logos and patterns.

Under Ahrendts' directive, the company also has increased its annual market weeks to five from two, which ensures new product is reaching the stores at a quicker, steadier pace and that the final customer gets to see new product more frequently. As a result, over the past year, Burberry has seen a growth across all markets and product categories. Bailey said he's working in a different rhythm. "I have an umbrella concept for the season, which reflects the mood of the moment," he said. "And then we break it down into smaller deliveries, designing the collections by monthly product flow. And it makes sense: The pre-collections have become major for us. Almost as important as the main collections."

As a result of the recent spike in sales, Ahrendts has had to rethink her ambitions for the accessories business as a whole. In July, she said she'd like to increase the accessories business, which makes up about 25 percent of sales. "Well, it turned out that every category grew phenomenally, so right now we'd be happy to keep accessories at 25 percent."

As for the company's positioning, Ahrendts has always said she's happy being the "opening price point on a high-end street, and there alongside Gucci and Louis Vuitton."

Ahrendts considers Burberry in a league with the top 10 luxury players. "We sold six mink coats during our latest New York trunk show. And we have the casualwear and rainwear base that our luxury peers don't have," she said, adding, "We consider ourselves a democratic, unintimidating luxury brand."

To wit, Ahrendts said the team purposefully keeps the Prorsum line — which is shown on the Milan runways — scarce on the shop floor.

"Strategically, we'll keep one piece on the sales rack in our stores. We treat the line as precious, elegant and unique," she said, adding that the strategy was working. "The customer knows us as Burberry. There is a brand unity there and the collections all serve the customer for different moments in his or her life."

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