The Royalist

10.31.12

Effect of Kate 'Aint So Great

Whistles CEO says Kate is great for brand visibility but doesn't really boost sales
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John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The effect of Kate 'aint so great, says Whistles CEO Jane Shepherdson, who sat down for a chat with website Business of Fashion.

BoF: Let’s talk about the so-called ‘Kate Middleton Effect’. Clearly, there is a brand visibility effect and people in countries where Whistles isn’t even present will all of a sudden be asking “What’s Whistles?” But I’m more interested to know about the real business impact, the impact on sales… And I don’t know the extent to which you can actually track or describe it.

JS: She wore a blouse [in the royal engagement photos] which was actually from a few seasons ago, which we weren’t running. So in that instance, it raised profile certainly, but it didn’t do anything for sales. We had a lot more people visiting our website.

I suppose the biggest impact has been on a dress she wore at the [Olympic] Opening Ceremony. It’s a style that’s been very successful for us anyway — a printed silk dress. That weekend, we sold out of it. Well, of what we had.

The thing is that we don’t do huge runs of anything. We might have sold out of it, but there might only have been 150 units. People still ask about the ‘Bella’ body con dress she wore from Whistles. We have a lot of customers who phone up and ask for it. And, to be fair, every time we have done that dress in a different print, it’s sold out, but I couldn’t say it lifted our total sales by 50 percent that week, because it didn’t.

 BoF: That’s always been my hypothesis, because you see these outrageous headlines, saying things like ‘The Kate Effect’ has a 1 billion pound impact on the fashion industry and I wonder, who’s coming up with these numbers?

JS: It raises profile, it’s great, we get known in countries we’re not known in. But it’s not going to turn us into a success overnight because she wears it. Fortunately, she looks great in it and it’s a great advert, but no more than that.