Kate Spade Brand Sees Sales Boost

Jamie Chung purse detail at Kate Spade Presentation - Getty - P 2018
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The brand's fourth-quarter earnings were released Tuesday.

After the June 5 suicide of its namesake designer at age 55, the Kate Spade brand buoyed fourth-quarter results of parent company Tapestry, according to financial results announced Tuesday.

Nostalgia for the brand drove Kate Spade sales up 4 percent to $312 million, topping analysts estimates, according to Reuters. The gains helped spurn a 31 percent jump in fourth-quarter sales for Tapestry, which also includes the Coach and Stuart Weitzman brands, sending shares up 12 percent on Tuesday.

"Our e-commerce site as well as our store sales reflected the strong and immediate heartfelt response to loyal customers to the tragic news of our founder’s passing,” Anna Bakst, the brand’s CEO, said on a call with analysts.

The sad irony, of course, is that Spade herself has had nothing to do with the brand that bears her name since she departed in 2007. In 1999, she sold 56 percent of it to Neiman Marcus Group, which acquired the remainder in 2006 and sold it to Liz Claiborne Inc., later named Fifth & Pacific. Tapestry bought it for $2.4 billion in May 2017. Meanwhile, Spade and husband Andy Spade tried to get back into the business in 2016, partnering on a new venture called Frances Valentine and selling accessories very similar to those they made at Kate Spade. The designer even changed her surname to Valentine to avoid confusion, becoming Kate Valentine.

Still, it is the designer’s sunny disposition, so at odds with her tragic end, that has been the brand’s lodestar. Heavy discounting and knockoffs left Kate Spade struggling in recent months, with third-quarter sales disappointing investors. But the outpouring of love and support for the designer in the wake of her passing, from everyone from Chelsea Clinton to Mindy Kaling, apparently drove customers back into stores. (There was a similar response from shoppers after Alexander McQueen died by suicide in 2010, although his luxury brand was not as price-accessible as Spade's.)

 

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Now, it will be up to the new Kate Spade creative director, Nicola Glass (formerly senior vp accessories design at Michael Kors), to build on the brand’s sales momentum when she makes her debut at New York Fashion Week in September.

Glass, who started at the company in January, is due to present her spring 2019 Kate Spade collection on Sept. 7 at the New York Public Library, with a capsule collection of bags that shoppers will be able to buy instantly. Her vision for the brand is expected to be less girlish and more sophisticated than that of previous creative director Deborah Lloyd. Glass also has plans for a new logo and store concept.