UK/INTERNATIONAL. Fashion retailer AllSaints has been on an international expansion drive since William Kim was appointed the UK company’s CEO in 2012, writes Ben Sillitoe.

Over the last two years, the company has opened its first standalone stores and shop-in-shops in Chile, Dubai, Kuwait, Italy, Macau, Peru, Taiwan, Japan and Turkey.

William Kim: “Most British brands would have gone to Gatwick, Heathrow and European airports and called that travel retail, but we did the opposite”

An opening in Mexico earlier in 2017 took its global footprint to 27 countries – but it is Asia where the company has set its sights in the immediate term. And Kim has identified the airport retail sector as a suitable fit for the clothing and accessories brand as it looks to expand its presence there.

“What makes us unique is most British brands would have gone to Gatwick, Heathrow and European airports and called that travel retail, but we did the opposite,” he explains.

“We targeted the biggest travel retail market – Asia,” explains Kim, stating that the existing UK stores “did not represent AllSaints’ brand experience model in 2012”.

AllSaints has a store at Incheon International Airport, as well as a presence in downtown Seoul through Shinsegae Duty Free, Shilla IPark Duty Free and Lotte Coex Duty Free. As reported by The Moodie Davitt Report, Shilla IPark Duty Free views AllSaints as a highly sought after brand and a key partner for its burgeoning off- and online sales operation.

Asian focus: The AllSaints store at Incheon International, managed by Shinsegae Duty Free (above and below)

The AllSaints brand can be found at Ever Rich Duty Free at Taoyuan Airport and its Neihu downtown duty free store in Taiwan, while (as reported today) it has also opened in City of Dreams, Macau with DFS. The brand is expecting to open three more stores in Asian travel retail by the end of this year – one more in Korea and an additional two in Taiwan.

The AllSaints travel retail presence in Asia
South Korea

– Incheon International Airport: Shinsegae Duty Free
– Shinsegae Duty Free (downtown)
– Shilla i-Park Duty Free (downtown)
– Lotte Duty Free Coex (downtown)
– Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (Ever Rich Duty Free)
– Ever Rich Duty Free (Neihu)
– DFS T Galleria at City of Dreams

There are ongoing discussions to open more stores in Japan, China, Thailand and in other Asian locations alongside travel retail partners.

“We’re having ongoing discussions with DFS about some of its key geographies and King Power in Thailand too,” Kim adds, explaining that the brands plans for Thailand are set to follow a different model to its existing travel retail portfolio.

The exact detail is under wraps, but Kim says that visitors to the as-yet unconfirmed Thai stores can expect a unique offering.

Out with the old, in with the new

 On Kim’s arrival at AllSaints in 2012, the company had stores at Gatwick and Stansted airports, but one of his initial decisions as CEO was to close down these travel retail operations. AllSaints wanted to target the biggest travel retail market, Asia, first.

“I didn’t think they were right for us,” he notes, arguing that there was a significant opportunity in Asian travel retail due to the rising popularity of the brand in the region.

The Asian travel retail market appeals to Kim, who regards the continent as the global leader in cosmetics and luxury. Earlier in his career, Kim ran teams in Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan as Burberry’s Vice President & Representative Director in Asia, so he understands the dynamics of the region.

William Kim says the company wanted to move away from the traditional route into UK airports, and make Asia the focus (Shinsegae Duty Free in Seoul is pictured)

The airport stores are performing well, according to Kim, and more openings are imminent. “We wouldn’t be looking to do this if the performance wasn’t there,” he says.

Growth in Asia comes after rapid expansion in the domestic market in the Americas, which started in 2010 before Kim’s arrival from Burberry, where he was latterly Senior Vice President for Retail.

Under Kim’s leadership, AllSaints has reached over 70 stores in the Americas – primarily in the USA, but with more recent additions in South and Central America, and Canada.

William Kim: “As we build in the key markets, the next evolution is travel retail.”

“Since 2012, we’ve been focused on the global footprint with our main-line and concessions store strategy,” explains Kim. “As we build in the key markets, the next evolution is travel retail.”

AllSaints’ airport stores focus on handbag collections and a limited selection of menswear and womenswear, distinguishing them from its high street and shopping centre stores which feature multiple rails of clothing and accessories for all occasions.

The travel retail focus is on convenience for a typically time-poor customer, although its downtown locations are more generous in space and merchandise. Kim does not have plans to open in train stations as part of the travel retail expansion.

The overseas business should represent two-thirds of sales by 2020, says Kim, with travel retail a linchpin of expansion

As of last year, half of AllSaints’ turnover came from its international arm, but Kim wants to develop the operations outside the UK to represent two-thirds of the business by 2020.

A Qatar store is scheduled to open this month, while outlets in Saudi Arabia and Poland will arrive before the end of the year too – in addition to the three planned Asian travel retail locations.

“Asia – from a travel retail perspective – remains the priority,” he adds. “And once we feel we have maximised Asia and our presence in airports and downtown locations, we will then seek other geographies.”

AllSaints has taken its place in the impressive boutique environment at Shilla iPark Duty Free in Seoul

Background: AllSaints is owned by UK private equity firm Lion Capital, which combined with Goode Partners in 2011 to buy a majority stake in the then indebted retailer from troubled Icelandic investment company Baugur Group.

A year later Goode sold its stake, leaving Lion with an 85% stake in AllSaints. It was at this time that Lion Founder Lyndon Lea recruited Kim to lead an ambitious international growth drive and company turnaround.

The last five years have coincided with a change in AllSaints’ fortunes, with the business growing sales incrementally each year. For the 12 months ending 30 January 2016, sales totalled £252.5 million.