Since he was hired at Burberry in 2001, Christopher Bailey has worn several hats: Design Director (2001), Creative Director (2004), Chief Creative Officer (2009), and Chief Executive Officer (2013). Bailey has held the latter two titles simultaneously for three years but passed on his CEO hat to Marco Gobbetti yesterday and took the title of President instead. The internal hierarchy at Burberry was reshuffled due to flagging sales, which were primarily the result of slowdowns in China and Europe. Brands at the level of Burberry are expected to turn a profit every quarter and, when sales begin to decline, the powers that be are forced to reassess. Both Bailey’s move from CEO to President and the hiring of Gobbetti were part of the iconic British brand’s “ongoing business review”, actions that investors took as a positive sign – shares in Burberry jumped 7.9 percent after the news was announced.
Bailey has been responsible for the overhaul of Burberry’s identity, transforming the brand from a licensing business to a full-fledged “omnichannel digital and physical retail business”. However, he desired a partner with global retail experience who understood complex markets like China and Europe, especially in light of the changes faced by the brand and the luxury market as a whole after Brexit. He found just that in Gobbetti, who was responsible for the reinvention of both Givenchy and Céline.
In an exclusive interview with Business of Fashion, Bailey relayed his feelings on Gobbetti, saying, “I just felt that we need some real retail expertise in the company, but I needed to do a more formal business review to really identify exactly how we were going to do that. Simultaneously, I had started to look for somebody I could partner with, who really had the gravitas or the experience of a true luxury retailer. And that kind of eventually led me to meeting Marco.”
Both Gobbetti and Bailey will report to Burberry Chairman John Peace, who shared his thoughts on the new hire with Business of Fashion, saying, “I am delighted that Marco will be joining us to work alongside Christopher in his new role as we embark upon the next chapter in our 160-year-old success story. He has an outstanding track record of delivering growth in the luxury industry, and his vision for the sector and how it will evolve is extremely impressive. The board firmly believes that these new leadership roles, coupled with actions identified in the recent business review, will significantly enhance our ability to deliver long-term sustainable growth and sector outperformance over time.”