Brooks Brothers tailors aggressive Australian expansion plan

Iconic US suitmaker Brooks Brothers is set to open two stores in February, in Sydney’s Martin Place and Melbourne’s Emporium complex.

The company, which has made the suits of 39 out of 44 American presidents, will embark on an aggressive expansion strategy in Australia starting on February 7.

It plans to roll out nine stores, as it and many other international retailers target the resilient Australian market.

Late last week Rolex opened its first Australian standalone store and other luxury retailers such Dior and lingerie brand La Perla opened in Australia last year.

The arrival of Brooks Brothers in Australia was first signalled in August last year when it signed a deal with OrotonGroup for it to have a 51% stake in the business.

Founded in 1818, Brooks Brothers is the oldest American menswear chain, with 500 stores worldwide in 25 countries including Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Chile and Canada.

As well as presidents, the brand has also dressed the rich and famous, securing on-screen deals to provide suits for TV shows and movies such as Mad Men, Gossip Girl and The Great Gatsby.

When the deal was first announced, Brooks Brothers chief executive Claudio Del Vecchio said in a statement it was fortunate to have Oroton as a partner to help with the transition into the Australian market.

“We have partnered with OrotonGroup because of their passion for the Brooks Brothers brand, their track record with other premium brands and their retail expertise and connections within Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Retail analyst Brian Walker told SmartCompany the brand would be a good fit for the Australian market.

“Brooks Brothers is a contemporary brand and they bring a nice price-pointed range of merchandise and have a loyal following of customers,” he says.

“The Australian consumer is quite discerning about price competiveness, or at least aware. Brooks Brothers will want to have a tailored range for the Australian market and understand the Australian consumer.”

Melinda O’Rourke from MO Luxury told SmartCompany premium and luxury brands had continued to grow strongly in the past few years because consumers’ purchases were more considered.

“Retail has had a pretty tough time in the past two years, but the premium luxury sector rode the wave positively. When times are tough, people are more discerning with where and what they purchase,” she says.

The news of Brooks Brothers comes as a new global survey from Deloitte is released, naming the world’s four biggest retailers as Walmart, Tesco, Costco and Carrefour.

Australian retailers Woolworths and Wesfarmers ranked in the top 20, placing 15th and 19th respectively.

The report made special mention of the globalisation of the Australian retail market, and predicted this trend will continue in 2014.

Of the world’s top 250 companies, 30 of them are operating in Australia and Next, River Island and Muji are all rumoured to be entering the market soon.

In 2014 Australia will gain at least another two top 100 global companies, with H&M and Uniqlo opening.

“The influx of new retailers into the Australian market will undoubtedly continue to add to the already significant pressures faced by Australian retailers,” Deloitte says in the report.

“These pressures have likely helped resurrect the debate round lowering or abolishing the GST threshold on imported goods worth less than $1000…” Deloitte says.

But despite the increased competition from new overseas players, Deloitte says local retailers have a number of advantages including favourable store locations, customer knowledge and brand loyalty.

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