RM Williams details expansion plans amidst sale talks

Hugh Jackman is the new face of R.M. Williams

Heritage boot brand RM Williams has revealed plans to open 18 new stores in the US and UK, more than doubling its current international store footprint amidst ongoing talks of a sale.

The expansion, reported in the Financial Times on Tuesday, is expected to help the Australian brand double its sales to $300 million within the next five years.

As part of this push, RM Williams in March appointed Hugh Jackman as its first global boot ambassador. The A-list celebrity, who also holds a 5 per cent stake in the company, was the face of the brand’s Undeniable Character campaign that launched globally in April and focused on the craftsmanship of RM Williams’ $600 boots.

Founded in 1932 in South Australia by Reginald Murray Williams, RM Williams still makes its boots by hand from a single piece of leather in a factory in Adelaide.

According to Queensland University of Technology professor Gary Mortimer, this heritage presents a strong point of difference for the company, especially as its owner L Catterton Asia pursues a sale through Goldman Sachs.

“Having a strong brand — the intellectual and intangible property of a company — is of great value to businesses today,” he told the Financial Times. .

L Catterton Asia, a private equity firm associated with the luxury conglomerate LVMH, acquired a majority stake in RM Williams in 2014 and has invested in growing the brand both in Australia, where it launched an e-commerce site, and overseas.

“While everyone else is restructuring and laying off people, we are hiring,” Raju Vuppalapati, RM Williams’ CEO, told the Financial Times. “The brand is ready to take its next big leap.”

RM Williams declined to provide further comment on its expansion plans.

RM Williams has bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and Denmark, and sells through retail partners in these and other countries.

It reportedly saw revenue growth of 11 per cent to $155 million in FY19, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation growth of 46 per cent to $23 million, according to the Financial Times.

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