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With 25 years of experience at luxury brands like Burberry and Céline, Ulrik Garde Due’s reputation for revitalizing companies led him to his current position as president and CEO of Mark Cross, America’s oldest luxury accessories brand.
“I saw a real opportunity in creating a lifestyle positioning,” he said on this week’s episode of the Glossy Podcast. “[Not only with] women’s accessories, but also [by] relaunching men’s, which we [did] last year … [and] creating more of a gifting destination for top-class quality and American luxury.”
When the pandemic hit, however, “We went from this survival to contingency planning to then, as I like to call it, ‘thrival’ mode,” said Garde Due. “It was our job to start thinking of the opportunities that this pandemic created for the industry and for the luxury consumer, and look at the post-pandemic era and what was needed to get executed during the pandemic to be ready for that.” That meant focusing on developing Mark Cross’ wholesale and directly operated channels and catering to consumers in the U.S. and in mainland China, which Due sees as ”an ever-growing market share” opportunity.
Mark Cross first began to cater to the preferences of the millennials and Gen-Z consumer demographics in the fall of 2019 by launching an “in-house vintage website.” Even more recently, the brand has reacted to the changes accelerated by Covid-19 by “investing heavily into the digital sphere.” That’s included partnering with companies like Hero and a personalized delivery service.
“Getting back to the 19 [sales] volumes, as well as enlarging our community, are the two main goals this year,” said Garde Due.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Catering to the H.E.N.R.Y. customer
“We’re looking at both millennial H.E.N.R.Y.s and Gen Z. Millennial H.E.N.R.Y.s — being high earners, not rich yet — are very prominent in countries with rising economies, such as China. We are looking at targeting both of these groups. But the beauty about Mark Cross is to have an ageless approach to the marketplace and to create high-quality, beautiful investment pieces with longevity. It’s great to see that the young generation, to a higher extent, enjoys that value proposition of what we [are] offering.”
“The situation — both because of the pandemic, but more so because of the digital era — has required a different speed from established luxury heritage brands, but in a good way. We need to understand how to act fast in a respectful way and also from a sustainable angle. And we should take a leading position in this, hence why we at Mark Cross have launched our vintage website — and we have other great initiatives that we’re testing at the moment. We have hooked up with a company called TrueTwins, a digital partner [that] implement[s] a chip in all of our products, so that we and our consumers can trace the product using blockchain technology. So even if the product changes hands, the digital passport of TrueTwins will be handed over to the new consumer.”
“We have been launching soft categories and becoming a true gifting destination. Our price pyramids are catering to that, starting at $250 and upward. So it’s within games our great essentials collection that we launched during the pandemic with specific sanitizer holders and mask purses that you can put into your handbag. I’m looking at interesting, innovative products that also cater and are relevant to the consumer right now.”