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It's bravo to the New Yorker who made Burberry cool once again.

Byline: JOHN DUCKERS

Bravo to Bravo. Few people have the ability to turn round ailing brands - look at the demise of MG Rover to understand how it is far easier to fail than succeed.

So special praise should go to Rose Marie Bravo for the revival of Burberry.

Transformed from a struggling British label into a major luxury icon.

When she arrived it had long had a tired image focused largely on dull, middle aged shoppers.

She injected excitement and marketing panache.

Ms Bravo hired celebrated photographer Mario Testino to shoot advertising campaigns of models, including Kate Moss, wearing Burberry raincoats.

Pink raincoats, mini-capes, fragrances and bikinis were added to the classic camel, red and black check.

Suddenly Burberry was "cool" once more.

The fashion conscious and the chic re-discovered its appeal. Profits have risen more than five-fold since she joined in 1997, to pounds 164 million in the year to March, when turnover was pounds 715.5 million.

Its market cap has gone from pounds 200 million to pounds 2 billion in that time.

The 54-year-old New Yorker was this year named by Forbes magazine as the 63rd most powerful woman in the world, ahead of both the Queen and Louise Frechette, the deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. The success of the company under Ms Bravo is so legendary that industry insiders refer to "Doing a Burberry".

And interestingly this was no shallow makeover, destined to be shunned by the public following the initial hype...it has stayed the course.

Ms Bravo has done well out of it - she earned pounds 2.2 million as chief executive last year.

And she will pick up 2.5 million shares - worth in excess of pounds 10 million - as part of her current contract which ends next July.

Nobody should begrudge her the money. She deserves it. Is Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose on course to do the same following the top clothing retailer's first sales increase in eight quarters?

In a second-quarter performance that outstripped most analysts' forecasts, M&S said same-store UK sales rose 1.3 per cent in the 12 weeks to October 1, reversing a 5.4 per cent decline in the first quarter.

Total M&S group sales rose 3.3 per cent, with same-store sales in general merchandise - clothing and homewares - down just 0.2 per cent compared with an 11.2 per cent first-quarter decline. Same-store food sales were up 2.7 per cent.

A decent performance, but even Mr Rose was quick to declare it was too early to talkin terms of a turnaround. He appears to be a Bravo disciple though, having embarked on a major pre Christmas advertising drive featuring Sixties supermodel Twiggy.

"For me these are pretty good numbers, so well done M&S and well done Stuart Rose," said Rebecca McClellan, retail analyst at Exane Securities.

"Their efforts to focus on the core older customer have clearly borne fruit."

Old, new, borrowed, blue - but the old motto still stands.

Know your customer
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 12, 2005
Words:505
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