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If this is the first time you're hearing about Boden, you'll probably start noticing it everywhere now. A UK-based catalog and e-commerce brand, it launched in the US back in 2002 and has been quietly growing since. The shtick is cute, affordable basics with a cool factor somewhere between LLBean. and J.Crew. But according to a Bloomberg article that ran yesterday, it's the way the brand plays up its Britishness that's making it so irresistible to US customers.
Bloomberg claims that British brands like Asos, TopShop, and Boden have carved out a slice of the US market by playing on America's British fantasy. Don't think you have a British fantasy? Whether you realize it or not, you probably do. American designers have always been heavily influenced by British fashion. Whether it's '60s mod London (Marc Jacobs spring '13); quirky-cool prints (J.Crew in the Jenna Lyons era), or a tweedy, prep school sensibility (Ralph Lauren all the time), British style is probably the single biggest influence on American fashion. "There is an Anglophile scene [in the US] which British brands can and do tap into," said Julian Granville, Boden's CEO.
"More than anything else, it's Boden's use of British icons like red London buses that drives the appeal and challenges the big American catalogue retailers like J.Crew and LL Bean Inc.," Bloomberg speculates. The brand's US website has an unabashedly English tone, too: dresses are "frocks," pants are "trousers," sweaters are "jumpers," and product names—like the "spotty canvas plimsoles"—are similarly Britified.
Bloomberg quotes Graham Hales, chief executive officer of branding consultant Interbrand, who believes that American consumers possess an "admiration for an authentic U.K. perspective." "It's a chocolate box version of the U.K. that exists in Americans' minds," he says.
In the Kate Middleton era, there are certainly plenty of images of modern British fashion to fuel American women's excitement about the cute, knee-length jersey dresses Boden sells. And you can expect to see more of that.
"So popular are Boden's $120 embroidered girl's dresses among well-to-do women in New York, Dallas and San Francisco that the company says the U.S. will overtake Britain as its biggest market in the next few years," Bloomberg reports. They're also saying that Boden's U.S. revenue rose 10% last year to $140 million, and that the company expects to double that pace this year, reaching $300 million by 2017.
While Bloomberg points out that British brands haven't always succeeded in the US—Laura Ashley is one example they point to as a failed move across the Atlantic—Boden is positioned pretty well to succeed. Their strong baby and childrenswear business should be an ace up their sleeve—at least as long as Kate Middleton is raising babies and a whole generation of American women have adorable pictures of the royal family to look at, our British fantasy isn't going anywhere.
· British Retailers Asos, Boden and TopShop Tap U.S. Market For Growth [Bloomberg, via BoF]
· Topshop Will Cautiously Go Where Zara, Uniqlo Won't: US Malls [Racked]