Tuesday 24 October 2017

Rafael Nadal's luxury shoemaker says small really can be beautiful

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Andrew Roberts

As luxury-goods companies such as LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton struggle to reconcile their global presence with an exclusive cachet, the shoemaker to tennis champ Rafael Nadal says it's benefiting from being small.

Sales of Corthay shoes, which can cost more than $10,000 (€7,455) for a bespoke pair, are growing "very strongly'" as wealthy shoppers increasingly seek rare and refined products, said Xavier De Royere, the company's chief executive officer.

"The ecosystem needs small fish," he said. "You can't have every single shopping mall in the world looking alike."

Exclusivity is becoming increasingly important to wealthy shoppers, particularly in China, according to Neev Capital managing director Rahul Sharma. LVMH last week reported profit that trailed analysts' estimates on weakening Asian demand at Louis Vuitton, its biggest brand.

The hunt for rarefied products plays to smaller elite brands such as Corthay that offer something new, said Mr Sharma.

Prices of ready-to-wear models start from about $1,500 (€1,120). The company has about 500 clients for its bespoke footwear, including Mr Nadal, pictured below, and actors Clive Owen and Cate Blanchett.

The shoemaker, founded in 1990 by Pierre Corthay, operates six stores in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and also distributes its footwear in retailers including Saks Inc.

"Customers are really happy to be somewhere different and somewhere small-scale," said Mr De Royere, who invested in Corthay in 2010 after almost 15 years at LVMH, where he worked for the Vuitton and Loewe brands.

Corthay's size and preference for small stores also helps with distribution as larger luxury companies compete for the biggest, and best, selling space, he says. By offering something different, "we're able to secure top-quality locations" next to brands such as LVMH-owned Fendi and Givenchy, while keeping the shopping experience intimate.

As Corthay opens more stores, including in New York next year, the challenge is to avoid "going too fast from hard-to- find to hard-to-miss," said Mr De Royere.

"It's a small baby that we're trying to cherish and develop in a healthy way," he said, "not force-feed him like foie gras." 

Irish Independent

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