Blackfriar: Burberry’s global rise is the chief executive’s vindication

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The news that luxury label Burberry has been named Britain’s second most powerful brand after household goods firm Unilever reflects the company’s rising strength under its new CEO, Halifax-born ​Christopher Bailey.

Burberry has leapt from sixth place last year to second, leapfrogging international bank HSBC, global whisky brand Johnnie Walker and world famous TV broadcasters BBC and Sky, according to this year’s Brand Finance Global 500 report.

It’s an astonishing performance and vindicates Bailey, who was considered by many to be too arty to take on the top role when he was appointed CEO last year.

Despite tough markets, Burberry has maintained its classy image with new advertising campaigns featuring the likes of 12-year-old Romeo Beckham, the son of footballer David and designer Victoria, and supermodels Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne.

It’s all a far cry from its “chav” days when former EastEnders’ actress Daniella Westbrook was photographed with her pooch covered in head to toe Burberry check.

Both Kate Middleton and actress Keira Knightley have been pictured wearing Burberry, cementing its royal status.

Burberry has not only become Britain’s premier luxury label under Bailey, it’s become its second most powerful brand, with many saying its cachet beats Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent put together.

Bailey is proud of his Yorkshire roots and the company has strong links to the region, employing more than 700 people.

The vast majority work at its factory in Castleford, where it manufactures outerwear, including the iconic trenchcoat. The company also weaves gabardine fabric and heritage check linings at the Burberry Mill in Keighley.

​So far has its power grown, Burberry was named the world’s seventh most powerful brand behind toymaker Lego, accountancy firm PWC, soft drink Red Bull, management consultants McKinsey, Unilever and L’Oreal Cosmetics.

It managed to beat Rolex watches, car maker Ferrari and sportswear designer Nike.

As only one of two British companies in the global top 10 power brands, Burberry’s Bailey has put himself, Yorkshire and Britain on the map.

Interestingly the Brand Finance annual report has two lists – most powerful and most valuable.

The latter estimates a brand’s value in millions of dollars.

In 2014 the most powerful UK brands were mobile phone giant Vodafone, HSBC, Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco, telecoms firm BT, Barclays bank, oil firm BP, Sky, supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, Leeds-based grocer Asda and insurance firm Prudential.

By 2015 Tesco has suffered a particularly steep fall in its value, down 37 per cent and falling from third to sixth place as the effect of a £263m accounting black hole, the ousting of its chief executive and the haemorrhaging of customers to Aldi and Lidl take their toll.

Interestingly, Asda was the only grocer to maintain its position, showing that its everyday low pricing is resonating with customers.

That said, Asda is expected to announce disappointing festive trading at midday today as a resurgent Tesco steals customers.

Analysts at Kantar believe that a recovering market leader will always hit the number two player the hardest.

Tesco returned to growth for the first time ​in over a year with a 0.3 per cent increase in sales​ in the 12 weeks to February 1.

But the rise came at Asda’s cost. Asda regained the number two position from Sainsbury’s over the period​, but its sales fell 1.7 per cent, the biggest fall out of the top four supermarkets.

Asda will need to launch another salvo in the price war if it is to stop shoppers deserting it.