Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.
Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. (KC) manufactures fashionable men's and women's footwear, handbags, and men's sportswear and tailored clothing, as well as offering accessories and other products under license agreements with other manufacturers.
KC products are marketed to more than 2,500 department and specialty stores. The company's Kenneth Cole Catalog reaches more than three million consumers per year, supplementing 47 domestic retail stores, which have expanded to include overseas operations in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and wholesale operations in eight countries. In 1995 Forbes named Kenneth Cole Productions 12th of the World's 200 Best Small Companies in America, and in 1996 the company was ranked 21 on this list.
The company was founded in 1982 when footwear and accessory designer, Kenneth Cole, debuted a ladies' footwear collection. Cole started the company on a shoestring, with just $300,000, and soon determined that to maintain necessary cash flow he would benefit from acquiring credit from European factories in need of business. Cole contracted with factories in Europe before returning to the United States to offer his first collection of women's shoes.
Upon learning that permits were only granted to utility companies and production companies shooting full-length motion pictures, Cole changed the name of the company to Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. and applied for a permit to shoot a full-length motion picture entitled ï¿½The Birth of a Shoe Company.ï¿½
KC sold out 40,000 pairs of shoes in just a few days, earning his reputation as a business maverick.
In 1985, Kenneth Cole opened his first store on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, followed shortly thereafter by another store on Union Street in San Francisco. Kenneth Cole retail and Company Stores can now be found worldwide in countries such as Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Israel, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and South Africa.
Cole, who acts as Kenneth Cole Productions' president and CEO, positioned his offices in the prestigious Carnegie Hall Tower above the famous Manhattan concert hall. Cole's design and business talents quickly won acclaim within the industry. Cole realized that the company would need to respond strongly in a marketplace dominated by the large retailers and that economies of scale and infrastructure were prerequisites to the kind of success he imagined. To grow large quickly the company would need public capital. Cole's company, which had grown from a $5 million operation in 1982 to sales of $84.9 million in 1994, then made its initial public offering, hoping to raise $20 million. KC opened its Bloomingdale's Manhattan flagship concept shop in 1994, followed by 14 concept shops in select Cincinnati-based Federated department stores around the country. KC already had launched its catalogue business, funding it out of the advertising budget. Catalogue sales were intended to promote the KC name and image, rather than serving as a profitable vehicle, although catalogue sales were beginning to improve during this period.
KC shoe lines include Kenneth Cole, the most expensive of his brands, with shoes priced at approximately $100 a pair (in 1996); the Reaction brand, priced around $60 to $80; and Unlisted, considered a "utility" product (with a name inspired by the trend toward unlisted business phones), selling at $30 to $50. KC's Reaction brand shoes were designed to appeal to those in search of a "utility" shoe, emphasizing comfort with style.
Overall growth profits increased about 35 percent by the third quarter of 1995 on the heels of a secondary stock offering. Approximately 20 percent of business was derived from company-owned retail stores. By 1996 KC operated 17 retail stores in the United States, a store in Amsterdam and another in Singapore. A partnership deal with a Hong Kong firm created a new marketplace in the Pacific Rim, where a series of stores followed featuring KC items.
KC prepared for extensive expansion in 1996 and awarded stockholders a two-for-one stock split. Growth in most areas was attributed to the company's consistent marketing efforts and from opening in-store shops in department stores, which increased sales by as much as 40 percent. The choice of licensing partners was critical since astute retailers carefully inform manufacturers concerning customer brand loyalty and following. The company anticipated continued skyrocketing in royalty income from licensed products--an area where revenues had doubled within the previous year. They held 24 licenses in products such as neckwear, outerwear, belts, eye wear, women's hosiery, briefcases and luggage, and began researching deals for watches, fragrance, jewelry, underwear and men's tailored clothing, sportswear and hosiery, both domestically and internationally. These products were a natural complement to shoes and handbags and allowed those in the industry a broader scope of influence with consumers. Shoe brands that extended into apparel and other areas reinforced customer brand awareness as consumers were identifying KC as the source for "urban-aspirational" fashion, a term coined by company image-makers.
The company is attempting to make new headway into the boy's footwear market, which had been almost entirely dominated by athletic shoes. KC debuted its children's line in 1997, offering a wide selection of loafers, chunky monk-straps, oxfords, and boots.
Kenneth Cole men's tailored clothing was introduced in the fall of 1997 and men's sportswear was launched in a debut runway show in early 1998. Like the well-priced, somewhat trendy shoes, the sportswear line appears to fill a niche--a niche defined by the company as urban, fashion-conscious consumers who want designer styles, at a reasonable price. Depending upon the success of the 1998 men's lines, KC plans to expand into women's and children's clothing. Except for a second-quarter slide in 1997, revenues at Kenneth Cole Productions have grown steadily.
Casual urban sophisticate who doesnï¿½t mind walking ten blocks to Soho.
James Denton, Teri Hatcher, Carrie Underwood, Jessica Alba, Sharon Stone, Molly Sims