On Tuesday, “affordable” luxury retailer Michael Kors (KORS - Free Report) announced that it has agreed to buy footwear brand Jimmy Choo, a popular brand name in the fashion world known for its towering stilettos, for about $1.2 billion, or £896 million, in cash. Kors will pay £2.30 per share for the luxury shoemaker.
Shares of Jimmy Choo, which trade on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker “CHOO,” rallied after the news broke, surging over 17%. Michael Kors stock, however, is currently trading down about 0.4% in mid-morning trading.
"We believe that Jimmy Choo is poised for meaningful growth in the future and our company is committed to supporting the strong brand equity that Jimmy Choo has built over the last 20 years," John Idol, CEO of Michael Kors, said in a statement.
Jimmy Choo initially announced that it wanted a new buyer in April. Its largest shareholder, JAB Holding, acquired the brand back in 2011 for £540 million, or $800 million at the time, and then took the company public in 2014. But JAB is a privately-held business group, and has built its brand portfolio around coffee and food companies rather than luxury accessories; it owns American coffee giants like Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee, and Keurig Green Mountain, and recently purchased Panera Bread Co.
Michael Kors said the deal has the support of JAB, and comes just a few months after Coach’s $2.4 billion acquisition of Kate Spade . Coach, an iconic American handbag and leather goods maker, is on a dedicated quest to transform its brand, cutting back on promotional discounts and pulling its products out of department stores; they hope Kate Spade will help them achieve this.
It’ll be interesting to see how Michael Kors utilizes the Jimmy Choo brand, however. While the purchase had been a long-rumored one, their customer bases do not go hand in hand. Michael Kors has completely saturated the handbag market—the company is the top handbag maker in the U.S.—with the MK logo seemingly appearing everywhere when you walk down the street. On the other hand, Jimmy Choo is the epitome of luxe. Like its peers Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin, a Jimmy Choo stiletto can easily sell for over $1,000.
Kors, though, is hoping to use its own massive global infrastructure to expand Jimmy Choo’s footprint. Similar to what Coach did when the company acquired Stuart Weitzman, the company plans to “support the growth of Jimmy Choo through retail store openings and further development of its online presence as well as through an expanded assortment of additional fashion product offerings.” Jimmy Choo’s existing management team will stay in place as well, like renowned designer Sandra Choi, Michael Kors added.
Founded in 1996 by designer Jimmy Choo and former Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon, Jimmy Choo is a luxury staple in the fashion industry. Its high price point didn’t stop the brand’s soaring popularity over the years, even appearing in movies and TV shows like The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City. In fact, sales have been booming these past few years, and the new deal could be an opportunity to double Jimmy Choo’s yearly sales to $1 billion.
While the world will surely be getting a lot more Jimmy Choos, Michael Kors should be cautious in this new venture, making sure it does not cheapen the luxury legacy brand like it did its own.
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