Australia’s “Jeans Queen”, Bettina Liano, has closed all but one of her Australian stores and set her sights on the United States market instead.
Liano’s first store in the United States will open in New York at the end of this week as her original store on Chapel Street in Melbourne closes its doors after 24 years.
The designer has closed down her other four Australian stores, leaving only one store remaining in Sydney.
Liano told SmartCompany she wants Bettina Liano to become a global brand with international trends and styles at the core of the collections each season.
“I am just looking for volume in the market, I feel that I outgrew Melbourne in particular and I have been banging the drums for 25 years. I feel like I could do with a new audience and I’m confident that what I do is different enough from everyone else to be able to sell it [in the United States],” she says.
“I want to create a focal point here [in the US], because if you go into a new market and you don’t sell anywhere they can’t market you and department stores won’t buy if you haven’t got any marketing.”
Liano says she has always been attracted to opening in the United States and to New York in particular.
“It is the fashion capital of the world and because I have always liked America and I’ve always liked the way they do business here,” she says.
“They do retail like nobody else, and also they love denim; denim is an American thing at the end of the day.”
Liano says after fighting her way back from voluntary administration the business struggled last year because of a supply delay.
“I experienced chronic delays with my suppliers. I didn’t get delivery of a summer season until the first week of January so that just killed me – I don’t know how long you can sell a sweater for,” she says.
Liano cites the expensive rents in Australia as a key reason for closing her stores and says she was paying $25,000 a month in Chapel Street.
“It’s sad, but I’m going to come back by the end of the year I’m going to reopen stores. I just want to pay good rent; Melbourne is not worth what they are charging at the moment,” she says.
“At the moment in the States it is like repeating how I started in Melbourne, there were empty stores going cheap. In Australia, in the last 12 months, I have been on sale for the last 12 months; it is just so price sensitive.”
Liano’s New York store will open at 246 Mott Street in NewYork’s SoHo district and she plans to open stores in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.
“I saw an opportunity as they’ve had a recession here, it’s small and the rent is really reasonable so I don’t have to sell a lot of stock to break even,” she says.
Liano is also developing a new Bettina Liano website but says actual bricks-and-mortar stores will always be important for retail.
“Opening a store is like a showroom, it’s like a billboard, it gives people a place to go and you can communicate your offer,” she says.
“Online is a focus for me but online and the real experience are not comparable. I might have been born in the 60s, [but] I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t touch the fabric online, you can’t smell the candle burning, you can’t sit on a chair and be served.”
Liano says it has been a long road back from the collapse of her business but she is confident about the future for the Bettina Liano brand.
“I lost most of what I worked 25 years for, I lost millions of dollars in equity and I’m trying really hard. I’m not a crook,” she says.
“They have a different attitude to that sort of stuff in America, what I have done is going to make me money. I am still here, I am still 100% in business, and I still own the business 100%.”