When Butterwick arrived at Karen Millen last August she was confronted with a troubled business.
Losses had widened in the year to February 27, 2016 while sales dropped a huge 10% and like-for-likes were not disclosed.
Butterwick attributes this to the business losing its identity in an ever-more crowded fashion market.
“In the 80s and 90s it was a zeitgeist brand on the high street,” she says. “It was a brand that stood for unapologetic confidence.
“My impression over the last few years is that Karen Millen had lost its mojo and its confident purpose.
“Perhaps there was a misalignment between our real core customers and the collection we were offering.”
Now, Butterwick and her team are embarking on a three-pronged strategy focused on reviving product, team and processes, developing digital, and re-engineering its store estate.
A global store review, which is due to finish in six months’ time, should result in a net closure of owned stores.
“Yes we will close stores if we don’t think they are in the right locations anymore or if they don’t make money but also we’ve identified locations where we should be where we’re not,” Butterwick says.
“Concessions and franchise partnerships and outlets are a part of the mix so our solo stores might change in number but certainly in terms of where we are from an accessibility point of view that probably won’t change overall.”
Our verdict: Will Butterwick’s plan work?
In an ever more crowded fashion market, Butterwick’s bid to bring Karen Millen back to its glam roots is a bold move but one that could really pay dividends.
While the retailer does not operate in the squeezed middle market, it had veered towards a mainstream aesthetic and away from its trademark look. If the core Karen Millen customer still exists, as Butterwick’s customer data says she does, then this approach should help to define brand handwriting and differentiate Karen Millen from a crowded high street.