Cath Kidston is the fastest growing retailer Retail Week Knowledge Bank (RWKB) has recently encountered.

The vintage fabrics-inspired retailer first revealed its turnover in 2007 at £12m. Three years later the total was £50m, with annual growth averaging 60%, accompanied by double-digit margins. The year ending this month will show further rapid growth and sales will almost certainly top £70m.

Cath Kidston has achieved enviable iconic status that has run ahead of the modest size of the business. Perhaps the key aspect of success has been sustained expansion across several fronts.

The product ranges of household textiles, homewares, clothing and accessories have grown to encompass kitchen and laundry, bedroom, bathroom and sewing.

Wholesale and licensing income has risen faster than retail sales, from £4.6m in 2007/08 to £15.1m in 2009/10. Sales outside the UK outpaced domestic growth, rising from £2.8m to £10.4m.

RWKB estimates UK retail sales were little over half the 2009/10 total, at £28m. Technically, therefore, Cath Kidston remains outside the UK’s Top 200 retailers by sales, but such is subscribers’ interest that RWKB has prepared the profile now online.

Cath Kidston’s products have found favour across a wide, albeit upmarket, age range. The key challenge will be sustaining popularity, especially with the brand now more widely available and the range extended, risking its exclusivity.

Laura Ashley, with which Cath Kidston has inevitably been compared, and even pre-revival Burberry, are stark reminders of distinctive British brands losing their edge. Overcoming changing fashion tastes will prove crucial at some future point. In the meantime, there remains much more to play for.

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