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Burberry is most famous for its trench coat, which was designed by founder Thomas Burberry. The company has branded stores and franchises around the world and also sells through concessions in third-party stores.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales have granted the company Royal Warrants, which have been maintained despite Burberry’s closure of its factory in Wales. Christopher Bailey has been the CEO and Chief Creative Officer since 2014.
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The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
In 2014, Burberry ranked 73rd in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands report, ahead of Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss. Burberry has more than 500 stores in over 50 countries.
Early years, 19th century
Burberry was founded in 1856 when 21-year-old Thomas Burberry, a former draper’s apprentice, opened his own store in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England. By 1870, the business had established itself by focusing on the development of outdoors attire. In 1880, Burberry introduced in his brand the gabardine, a hardwearing, water-resistant yet breathable fabric, in which the yarn is waterproofed before weaving. “Burberry” was the original name, but then the company soon switched to using the name “Burberrys”, after many customers from around the world began calling it “Burberrys of London”. This name is still visible on many older Burberry products. In 1891 Burberry opened a shop in the Haymarket, London.
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Former Burberry headquarters on the Haymarket were built in 1913.
In 1901, the Burberry Equestrian Knight Logo was developed containing the Latin word “Prorsum”, meaning forwards, and registered as a trademark. In 1911 they became the outfitters for Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, and Ernest Shackleton, who led a 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica. A Burberry gabardine jacket was worn by George Mallory on his presumed ill-fated attempt on Mount Everest in 1924.
In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the War Office to adapt its officer’s coat to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare, resulting in the “trench coat”. After the war, the trench coat became popular with civilians. The iconic Burberry check was created in the 1920s and used as a lining in its trench coats.
Burberry also specially designed aviation garments. A.E. Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green made the fastest flying time to Cape Town from London in 1937 and were sponsored by Burberry.
Burberry was an independent company until 1955, when it was taken over by Great Universal Stores (GUS).
During the 1970s, the brand became popular with the British casual cult, leading to its being associated with members of football firms by the 1990s and ‘chavs the following decade.
In 1998, Burberry has changed their marketing name to Burberry.
A Burberry store in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
In May 2001, Christopher Bailey joined Burberry as creative director. GUS divested its remaining interest in Burberry in December 2005. Burberry Group plc was initially floated on the London Stock Exchange in July 2002. In 2005, Sanyo-shokai was the Burberry ready-to-wear licence holder in Japan with retail value of €435 million.
In 2006, Rose Marie Bravo, who as Chief Executive had led Burberry to mass market success through licensing, decided to retire.She was replaced by another American Angela Ahrendts, who joined from Liz Claiborne in January 2006, and took up the position of CEO on 1 July 2006. Ahrendts and Bailey successfully turned around the then Chav-like reputation that the brand had acquired at the end of Bravo’s tenure, by removing the brand’s iconic check-pattern from all but 10% of the company’s products and buying out the Spanish franchise that was worth 20% of group revenues. Part of the new design-led drive and vision was taken from admiring and learning lessons from iconic leading design brands, including Apple Inc. Burberry first began selling online in the US, followed by the UK in October 2006, and the rest of the EU in 2007. Bailey became Chief Creative Officer in November 2009, whilst it was reported that during 2012 Ahrendts was the highest paid CEO in the UK, making £16.9m, the first time a woman topped the table.
In October 2013, it was announced that Ahrendts would take up the position of Senior Vice President of retail and online at Apple, Inc. from April 2014, and be replaced as CEO by Bailey. During her tenure, sales increased to over £2 billion, and shares gained more than threefold to £7 billion. Although Burberry promotes its British connection, according to The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper, as of July 2012, Burberry maintains only two production facilities in Great Britain, one in Castleford producing raincoats, and a smaller one in Keighley.
In spring 2014, Christopher Bailey became CEO of Burberry and retained the role as chief creative officer. His basic salary is £1.1m, with total remuneration of up to £10m a year depending on sales targets being met. In July 2014, Burberry shareholders opposed the salary by failing to support the company’s remuneration report in a non-binding vote.
The Burberry Foundation
The Burberry Foundation was established in 2008 and is a philanthropic organisation dedicated to help young people realise their dreams through the power of their creativity.
Burberry operates under 3 sub-brands: (2014)
Burberry Prorsum – The most fashion forward collection, inspired by runway shows, providing the design inspiration for the brand
Burberry London – The tailored collection, typically what a customer wears on weekdays for work
Burberry Brit – The most casual collection, typically worn on weekends