Kitten Heels are Dead. Long Live Kitten Heels.

The retailpocolypose is continuing at full speed, impacting retailers both here in the US and across the pond. Clothing retailer LK Bennett Ltd. is the latest High Street casualty, closing five stores and going into administration in the UK. It is joined by its New York-based subsidiary, L.K. Bennett U.S.A., which has filed for chapter 11 protection in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court.

Company Background

Opening in London in 1990 to bring “a bit of Bond Street luxury to High Street,” LK Bennett quickly established itself as an upmarket retailer. And its founder, Ms Bennett, just as quickly established herself as “the Queen of the Kitten Heel.” Bennett’s “smart” dayware is a favorite of Princess Kate Middleton and other celebrities. And even Prime Minister Theresa May has been knows to step out in LK Bennett kitten heels.

Faltering Steps

Corporate missteps and a challenging retail environment have led to declining sales and, ultimately, bankruptcy.  Many of the elements of the LK Bennett story are all too familiar.

  • The UK clothing and footwear sector are suffering from price deflation, leaving LK Bennett priced beyond the reach of most shoppers.
  • Today’s retail environment is all about authenticity and distinctiveness; LK Bennett has failed to embrace a sense of uniqueness and creativity that would set it apart from more competitively priced competitors in a saturated market.
  • An excessive number of stores at above-market rates – exacerbated by decreasing foot traffic and overdependence on sales at brick & mortar locations – has left the company struggling with excessive lease costs.
  • LK Bennett has also failed to connect with its young consumers via social media and has been overtaken by younger, more-affordable and digitally-savvier brands. (Sorry, Prime Minister.)
  • Ownership changes have left strategies in flux without time to take root and come to fruition.

And by the way…. is an “affordable luxury brand” even a thing?  Are consumers who are willing to invest in a luxury pair of shoes more likely to go all in and aim for a recognized high-fashion shoe brand, such as Jimmy Choo? 

What Comes Next for LK Bennett?

Interested buyers have been actively pursuing the company, at least in the UK. Similarly to (much, much) edgier UK lingerie brand and retailer Agent Provocateur, LK Bennet’s counterpart bankruptcy filing for its US subsidiary has likewise been teed up to pursue a sale.

Case Information

L.K. Bennett U.S.A. is represented by DLA Piper as counsel and Ernst & Young as restructuring advisor. The case number is 19-10760. The case has been assigned to Judge Kevin Gross.

Mette H. Kurth

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