Buffalo David Bitton is returning to the UK market after a three-year absence. WWB finds out why.
Canadian brand Buffalo David Bitton may have been out of the UK market for three years, but it still has a loyal following among denim fiends and fashionistas who got to know the brand during its first stint in the UK in the mid-noughties. The brand pulled out of the UK as part of a tactical review, reorganising its offices to create a seamless international company structure and strengthening the business internally.
Following the market absence, it is now ready to regain a big chunk of the UK denim market share with a strategic relaunch and determination to make this time round really count – a streamlined and stronger product offering and new marketing plans form the foundations for the business strategy that is aimed at making the brand a household name. “After a three-year absence, we are ready to re-enter the UK and Ireland. We have put a strong focus on our new product offering and are taking an exciting new approach to marketing,” says brand director Todd Howard, clearly unfazed by the challenge that lies ahead. After all, there are easier, and probably more conducive economic climates than the current one, and relaunching a brand in the midst of an economic downturn is no mean feat, even for experienced brand developers.
But Howard is confident that second time round the brand will be able to make its mark long-term. “We would never have chosen to relaunch in the UK [at this time] if we didn’t think we could replicate our success in the US,” he says. “Although we recognise that the UK market obviously has differences, the Buffalo product and message is strong enough to translate. We believe Buffalo David Bitton is offering premium level product at reasonable price points, and it’s a great way for our customers to continue to get great fashion without paying premium prices.
“The brand has remained strong in the US market and, as a global lifestyle brand, we are unique in the way that we are able to translate across international boundaries. From the US, Mexico, Central and South America, Greece, Russia, Canada to the UK, our label has a global appeal. The brand is developing very well and the acceptance from country to country remains strong as ever.”
Indeed, Buffalo David Bitton comes along with a substantial brand proposition across womenswear and menswear, offering four collections a year – spring, summer, autumn and holiday – with 250 pieces each, as well as a full sportswear collection. What started more than 25 years ago in Montreal, Canada, as a small niche denim label by the eponymous founder David Bitton, has now turned into a fashion powerhouse, and today the brand’s offer spans a vast selection of clothing and accessories which – as Howard emphasises – put forward a premium look at affordable prices. Each season features a denim range that includes the label’s basic styles, which are repeated, plus new fashion styles that reflect the latest trends. Despite the volume of pieces that are available, it’s a more streamlined offer than in the past.
The brand’s target consumers are mainly fashion savvy 18-34 year olds who are trendy, but not slaves to trends. The label’s pricing structure is accordingly accessible, with wholesale prices ranging between £20 and £30 for tops, £50 to £60 for dresses and £40 to £60 for denim. This season, the brand is stepping away from the 80s look and is all about cleaner navy blue washes and vintage influences, embracing the chic influences of the 70s and 90s, with high rises and flares among the key styles, along with country and gypsy elements. New basics include curvy fits, as well as a new low-crotch trouser, which are among the predicted bestsellers of the range.
Being both a wholesale and retail brand globally, Buffalo David Bitton exports into 18 countries and is sold through 3,000 stockists and 40 standalone stores, with the US being the strongest market due to key accounts in Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. But Howard sees the UK as a major new export destination. “The UK is important to us as a great market for distribution, and it is a strong gateway into Continental Europe. We are excited to see how the UK is going to accept our brand,” he says. And, despite the economic considerations, Howard is optimistic. “We believe it’s always a good time to add a great line of clothing at a great price value,” he says.
The UK expansion will see a roll-out across both department stores and independents, with the brand being represented by London fashion house The Clear Agency. “We are speaking with the major department stores, and we would expect to have a good presence in our chosen retail partner, in addition to the better end independents around the UK and Ireland,” says Howard. He is, however, cautious about naming direct brand adjacencies. “Buffalo David Bitton is an enormous brand, offering multiple denim jeans styles and a full collection,” he says. “The brand adjacencies will therefore vary on how you see the brand, for example denim, sportswear, directional womenswear or directional menswear.”
According to Howard, Buffalo David Bitton’s strength is its expertise across the product sectors, something he wants to build on and highlight when it comes to developing the UK distribution. “We are a related category brand, meaning it is a completely comprehensive collection that consists of different categories such as denim, sportswear and accessories in both menswear and womenswear,” he says. “These categories are all related in their signature style, and we have great expertise in both menswear and womenswear. Secondly, we are as strong on our menswear as we are on our womenswear; both are fashion forward while never forgetting the classic product that people have grown to love. Thirdly, we are a global lifestyle brand and can translate to a vast customer base, no matter what country.”
While the brand will not be shown at any European trade shows next season, the relaunch will be supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign aimed at raising the profile of the label as well as helping to increase the brand presence across the UK and Ireland. “Retailers need our support, so we will do marketing around the stores through events and nationwide through consumer advertorials and advertisements,” says Howard.
And, with no signs of denim ever disappearing off the fashion radar and with appetite for new brands and styles constantly growing, Buffalo David Bitton’s second shot at the UK may well pay off.
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