kate spade's story is one of simplicity, like the bags it sells, and expansion. The company, begun in 1993 by designer Kate Spade and her husband Andy to make kate spade handbags, has since lent its uncomplicated design for the manufacture of stationery, various functional bags (think diaper bags), and licensed products -- with lines of homewares (sheets, tabletop items, and wallpaper), as well as beauty items, eyewear, and shoes. Women's items are sold under the kate spade name; men's products carry the jack spade moniker. Owned by Fifth & Pacific, the firm distributes products in Asia and sells them through more than 70 company-owned specialty and outlet stores, upscale US department stores, and its website.
kate spade, one of a troika of upscale, retail-focused brands on which parent Fifth & Pacific (formerly Liz Claiborne) is staking its future, accounts for about 20% of its parent company's total sales. kate spade's 2011 sales were about $313 million, an increase of nearly 70% vs. the prior year. The increase was due to the addition of new stores, substantial sales increases at existing shops, and a 69% jump in online sales. (Indeed, kate spade's average sales per square footage, a typical gauge of a retailer's health, rose from $666 per/sq. ft. in 2010 to $934 per/sq. ft. in 2011.)
Growth initiatives for kate spade include the establishment of operations in the UK and the formation of a joint venture in China with E-Land Fashion China Holdings. The new partnership will market and distribute small leather goods and other fashion products and accessories under the kate spade brand in China. To boost sales kate spade is also adding stores, looking to increase apparel sales, and accelerating the growth of its men's brand jack spade. The company is also looking to boost online sales substantially. During recent years, kate spade has expanded its products portfolio to include lifestyle items as the company looks to extend its reach beyond its iconic handbags. To this end, kate spade rings up sales in fashion accessories, jewelry, luggage, apparel, and fragrances. The retailer also offers footwear, eyewear, and baby gear, among other items. Under the jack spade trademark, the company peddles briefcases, travel bags, and small leather goods. The strategy to transform the kate spade business has worked so well for its parent company that it's implementing similar changes at its sister brand Juicy Couture.