Obama Boost Sales Agent Provocateur

Obama Boost Sales Agent Provocateur, The First Lady – better known for shopping at more modestly-priced High Street stores – along with the Queen of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah, closed off part of Madison Avenue to spend time in the luxury lingerie shop. Their purchases contributed to a market-spanking 12.5pc lift in sales.

Gary Hogarth, Agent Provocateur’s chief executive, refused to be drawn on the store’s closely kept “secret client list”. But he admitted the brand had attracted a high number of “unexpected famous names” – especially in the US, where sales have overtaken the UK.

On the back of this growth, Agent Provocateur, which is owned by listed private equity firm 3i, is launching an aggressive expansion strategy with more than 20 new shops opening globally in 2012.

Last-minute purchases of lace corsetry and satin bras pushed Christmas trading across the eight weeks from November 27 up 8.1pc on a like-for-like basis and 15.2pc overall. In the last 43 weeks, trading has been up 12.5pc on a like-for-like basis and 21.6pc overall, outstripping most of its retail rivals. The company’s lack of competition, celebrity status and up-market clientele have insulated it from problems endured by most rival retailers. In October the company said half-year sales were up a third to £26.6m with earnings of £3.3m.

“This is a real luxury brand,” says Mr Hogarth. “But now it is also being run with a strong business discipline. That has meant a lot of changes to the finance team, mer­chandising and production and planning. It also means negotiating on every rental contract – which is more than possible in this market.”

3i’s £69m purchase of the company at the height of the 2007 buy-out bubble left the private equity firm holding all the debt. Insiders say this costly misstep has ironically allowed the business to survive across two very difficult years of trading. Now, the company’s recovery is out­pacing even 3i’s projections.

“The glamour of the AP brand is really powerful – it has a luxurious quality, that means people have a sense of walking away with a special purchase even when they are buying a pair of knickers,” says Mr Hogarth.
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