Why Kate’s couldn’t save favourite high street store LK Bennett
1st March 2019

The curse of Kate! How the Duchess’ endorsement of L.K.Bennett could have contributed to its downfall as the brand struggled to keep up with demand for designs she wore

  • LK Bennett, a favourite of Duchess Kate, is set to file for administration
  • Branding expert Claire Shiels told Femail it can be a ‘nightmare’ if Kate is photographed wearing an item from the high street brand
  • Shoppers more likely to buy one-offs rather than become regular customers 

For any fashion brand, having a member of the royal family wear your clothes might seem like the ultimate endorsement, but while the ‘Kate effect’ can boost sales, it wasn’t enough to save one of her high street favourites, L.K.Bennett.

The high street fashion house, a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, is set to file for administration, putting up to 500 jobs at risk.  

Branding expert Claire Shiels told Femail: ‘Celebrity endorsement is the holy grail for any retailer, although it can bring with it as many problems as benefits.’

Kate is known for wearing older pieces that are no longer able to buy, meaning that brands have to then rush to manufacturer another run to satisfy demand – at a huge cost. 

Also, because Kate buys staples and re-wears them over the years, it means that customers follow suit and buy just one piece from a collection, rather than becoming a loyal repeat customer. 

‘Having your high street label worn in public by one of the world’s most photographed women can prove to be a nightmare if you’re not forewarned, which is usually the case with Kate Middleton,’ Claire explained. 

‘Retailers must walk a fine line between supply and demand, with production based on a number of factors, including historical sales figures, market trends and buyer behaviour. 

Kate Middleton, 37, pictured in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Wednesday wearing her go-to black boots from LK Bennett. The high street store is set to file for administration

‘A sudden and unexpected spike in sales and demand, which is what happens to a garment when the Duchess is spotted wearing it, often means that another immediate production run is required to satisfy demand and maximise the sales opportunity. 

‘Unfortunately, this can involve huge costs for the label, which then is unable to forecast when the sales surge is likely to suddenly drop again. 

‘The science behind production is therefore thrown into disarray and costs can easily spiral.’ 

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The Duchess, 37, has been spotted wearing L.K. Bennett numerous times – from a printed blue and white dress to her go-to black booties.

Claire added: ‘The problem for labels with Kate in particular, is that she chooses staple wardrobe items that are typically priced at the higher end for high street retailers and wears them more than once. 

The Duchess of Cambridge sporting an LK Bennett dress for a dinner at Kensington Palace, London, during former US President Barack Obama’s state visit to Britain in April 2016

Kate, 37, wore a white and blue floral L.K.Bennett dress during a visit to Luton with national charity Youthscape in August 2016

‘This means that typically, her fashion followers will only purchase one item per season, rather than buying into the brand and shopping with them all year long. 

‘Despite the financial woes currently experienced by some of her favourite labels however, it is the market – not Kate – that is to blame for the mass closure of many high street stores. 

‘As well as L.K.Bennett; Hobbs, Orla Kiely, Alice Temperley and Issa have all experienced significant financial difficulties.’

The Duchess of Cambridge debuted an LK Bennett coat during a visit to the UNICEF emergency supply centre in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2011

Kate, 37, is often pictured wearing her signature LK Bennett nude shoes pictured here during a visit to Adelaide, Australia in 2014

Although it’s a difficult time for retail, Claire claims some lower-priced brands including Zara and Primark have got it right.

She said: ‘Zara is in the enviable position to have been able to bring its manufacturing process in-house rather than outsourcing abroad, meaning costs are reduced and the brand is able to react quickly to a sudden increase in demand. 

‘At the other end of the scale, Primark is continuing to thrive due, it is said to its mass market appeal and its focus on engagement with its customers through social media.

‘It is the stores which are best able to adapt and have a supply chain flexible enough to cope with fluctuating demand and market trends which will survive. Unfortunately for the likes of L.K.Bennett and Orla Kiely, this realisation has come too late.’

The Duchess of Cambridge wearing L.K.Bennett back in 2012 during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee UK Tour. LK Bennett’s founder Lina Bennett emailed staff today about the intention to file for administration

L.K.Bennett is said to be working with Ernst & Young to help decide the ‘best way through’ the upcoming ‘difficult and unstable times.’

The brand’s founder, Linda Bennett emailed staff today about the intention to file for administration. 

In the email Ms Bennett said: ‘I came back to the company in 2017 to try and reinvigorate the brand.

‘It was a difficult decision, but I don’t regret it for a second.

‘I have fought as hard as I can, with all your help to turn the business into the success that I know it deserves to be, and we have had some of our best sales figures and reactions to our recent collections that we have ever had.’

The designer then added: ‘We are going to be working with Ernst & Young to help decide the best way through this.

‘I know that these are difficult and unstable times, and we are doing everything we can to identify the best way forward.

‘I want to thank you for your dedication, hard work and continued support.’

The British affordable luxury brand was founded in 1990 with ‘the vision of bringing ‘a bit of Bond Street luxury to the High Street’.

The company is now well known for its signature kitten heels favoured by celebrities including Kate Middleton.

Linda Bennett came back to the brand in 2017 after leaving in 2008 when she sold a majority stake in the firm for between £80m and 100m.

In 2018 it was reported that L.K.Bennett reported losses of £5.9 million in 2016/2017, compared with a £100,000 profit in the previous 12 months.

Total sales also fell by 1.8 per cent to £77.4 million. The company blamed the figures on ‘exceptional costs’ of £28.7 million, spent on corporate restructuring.

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