British luxury retailer Liberty has announced plans for a mass global expansion, including an IPO planned for 2018. Liberty, which is one of London’s prime retail hotspots, is owned by BlueGem Capital Partners and has long enjoyed its status as a unique boutique selling a range of exclusive and luxury pieces.
“There will be no uncertainty for people who work in Liberty. They’re not going to get a new owner,” said Marco Capello, Liberty’s executive chairman and the managing partner of BlueGem Capital Partners. “I will stay on as chairman, and the people who work here will know that the management will not change.” And while other companies usually go public in order to fundraise, Capello is adamant that the new moves are part of a plan to make the store bigger and better and crucially, to help them maintain its independence. Part of the intended moves involve adding embossed leather items to the own brand Liberty line. According to Capello, this is something that is selling extraordinarily well — so much so that it is “outselling everything else” at the store. “It sells more than four times more per square foot than the store, and two times more than the [ground] floor,” said Capello. The store also has plans to increase its number of wholesale accounts, but will not be opening up any further replica stores. “We are selecting very few stores, and we will not sell to more than one store per city,” Capello said regarding the plans for expansion. “The one thing I’ve learned over the years is how not to ruin a brand. We’ll give the stores an exclusive period, and in exchange, they’re going to provide us with a location that is appropriate for us and for the designs, so that it feels limited.”
Liberty London was acquired by BlueGem for £32 million in 2010 and is set to celebrate its 140th anniversary this September. Last year, the store earned £133 million (or $219.5 million) in revenue and reported an after-tax profit of £9 million (or $14.9 million). The acquisition of the store by BlueGem also helped to secure “minority, long-term investors from a group of prominent and well-established international families from Europe and the Middle East.”