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Big Plans for Burberry

Burberry is poised to ramp up its retail presence in the U.S., boost its accessories business and leverage its brand name worldwide.

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LONDON — Burberry is poised to ramp up its retail presence in the U.S., boost its accessories business and leverage its brand name worldwide, Angela Ahrendts said in her debut presentation Thursday as the company's chief executive officer.

Ahrendts, who joined Burberry in January and officially took up her post this week, said she wasn't looking to make major changes but to take the business to the next level.

"This is chapter 151 of the Burberry brand," said Ahrendts, referring to the company's 150th anniversary celebrations this year.

"I'm not writing a new novel, and I'm not repositioning the brand," she told a handful of reporters in the slick accessories showroom at Burberry's headquarters here. "In fact, I love the positioning of the brand. I love being the opening price point on a high-end street, there alongside Gucci and Louis Vuitton."

Ahrendts was flanked by Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey and chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright. The three sat side by side while shots of the fall ad campaign flickered on a screen above their heads.

Ahrendts said the company will focus on growing its retail operations; building the accessories business, which accounts for 25 percent of sales, and consolidating its internal operations and brand image worldwide.

The U.S. is one of Burberry's fastest-growing markets, generating 24 percent of overall sales, but it still offers enormous potential, she said.

In the 2005-2006 fiscal year, Burberry's global turnover rose 3.8 percent to $1.4 billion from $1.3 billion.

"We plan to invest aggressively in our underpenetrated markets, and we are underpenetrated in the U.S.," said Ahrendts. "While we've opened up a whole southern belt of retail stores — in Florida, Southern California, Dallas and Houston — there's still the center of the country, and the Northeast. And we don't even play in Canada — there are no stores there."

Ahrendts added her team was exploring the use of different retail formats in growing markets. She said there could be casualwear stores in Kansas City or Columbus, Ohio; a men's wear-only store on Wall Street, and nonapparel stores in airports.

Cartwright said capital expenditure in the current fiscal year would be 50 million pounds, or $92 million at current exchange, up from 35 million pounds, or $64 million, in the previous year. Much of that, she said, would be funneled into store openings in the U.S.

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