Who says you can’t go home again?
Avery Baker has returned to Tommy Hilfiger, which is owned by PVH Corp., as president and chief brand officer. She will have global responsibility for the brand’s products, marketing and experiences across all categories, regions and channels.
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Michael Scheiner, who has been global chief marketing officer for the past year, is exiting the company. The role of global president is new.
Since joining Hilfiger in 1998, Baker has held numerous roles across the company’s global offices, including chief marketing officer and chief brand officer. She stepped down from her role in mid-2019 to spend more time with her family.
Over the course of her career, the 49-year-old Baker has developed and implemented brand-building strategies that have driven business growth and brand equity. Among her most notable achievements was driving transformational programs such as TommyNow, which were the successful “see now, buy now” runway shows featuring high-profile celebrities such as Gigi Hadid, Zendaya and Lewis Hamilton.
When the Tommy x Gigi collection debuted as Hilfiger’s first see-now-buy now show in September 2016, it generated 900 percent increased traffic to tommy.com in the 48 hours following the show. There were 2.2 billion social media impressions surrounding the event and the halo effect was double-digit sales growth in all women’s categories in every region. These TommyNow shows, coupled with partnerships with such brands as Kith and Vetements, have propelled brand relevance and expanded the company’s appeal to a younger generation.
“Avery has a deep sensitivity for the heritage and DNA of Tommy Hilfiger with a track record of launching impactful consumer initiatives that drive both the brand and business,” said Martijn Hagman, the 45-year-old chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger global and PVH Europe. “A commitment to aspirational products and world-class marketing sits at the heart of our vision to become a true global brand that leads with purpose. We’re excited to welcome Avery back into the Tommy Hilfiger family to lead the brand across both of these areas and unlock its full global potential.”
Hagman added, “As our brand and marketing teams continue to evolve and position themselves for the future, Michael Scheiner, chief marketing officer, Tommy Hilfiger Global, has decided to leave the organization. Michael joined our organization at a pivotal and tranformational time for the brand. Thanks to Michael, our marketing teams have decisively entered a new era, shifting towards new ways of working that deliver incremental business value. I’d like to thank Michael for his partnership, especially during the crisis moments of the past year.”
Baker assumes this role at a time when Hilfiger’s business has been challenged due to the pandemic, as have others in the sector. For the second quarter, PVH Corp., parent company of Hilfiger, reported that overall revenue decreased 33 percent to $1.58 billion compared to the prior year. The quarter saw a 28 percent decline in Tommy Hilfiger revenues compared to a year ago, including a 51 percent decrease in Tommy Hilfiger North America and a 14 percent decrease in Tommy Hilfiger International, with China showing positive year-over-year results.
Baker will be based at company headquarters in Amsterdam and reports to Hagman.
“In these challenging times, brands have an opportunity and a responsibility to make a difference in the lives of consumers,” said Baker. “I believe that Tommy Hilfiger can have an enormous positive impact as a company that is loved as much for our actions as for the outstanding products we design. I’m thrilled to embark on this new journey with Tommy, Martijn and our leadership teams in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas, as we work to achieve the long-term potential in each region and transform the company from the inside out — from culture to consumer — to become a company built for the 2020s.”
Tommy Hilfiger said, “Avery’s vision and overall excellence led us into a new breakthrough chapter in our history with See Now Buy Now fashion shows all over the world. Her product vision and expertise is exceptional. We are very excited to welcome Avery back to the Tommy Hilfiger family to lead into the next chapter.
“She’s super smart and is one of the best in the business,” added Hilfiger. He noted that her new post includes all product categories and all marketing worldwide. Her earlier position didn’t include product. Now marketing and product will be under one roof. “She is now number two next to Martijn Hagman,” said Hilfiger.
Baker was named chief brand officer in 2014 and leveraged a mix of pop culture, fashion, technology and entertainment to create a new brand vision. In addition to the TommyNow fashion shows in cities such as New York, Milan, Paris, London and Los Angeles, she reignited the Nineties-inspired Tommy Jeans label, to appeal to younger consumers.
This past June, Hagman replaced Daniel Grieder as ceo, Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe. Hagman had been chief operating officer of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe and chief financial officer, Tommy Hilfiger Global, overseeing operations, finance, digital business transformation, technology, and business development.
“Since the beginning of this year, one thing has been clear; we are going to close out 2020 in a radically different reality than we started in,” said Hagman. “As the trends, challenges and opportunities of that ‘new normal” have become clearer over the last few months, we’ve focused on several key areas that will be critical for future-proofing the business,” said Hagman. He said that protecting the brand heritage and building on it sustainability, inclusively, and innovatively for the future is the company’s number one priority.
In discussing the decision to name Baker, Hagman said, “Finding the right leader for his mission requires a person with a deep sensitivity to the heritage and DNA of our brand, one with a track record of creating marketing that drives both the brand and the business. A leader with the humanity to help guide the evolution of our culture into one that is inclusive, brand and future-facing.”
Baker spoke about why she wanted to return to the brand.
“As you know, the world has changed a lot since I stepped down from this role. It became important to be able to make an impact in the kind of world we live in. Tommy and I have always shared a belief in this power of determined optimism. I believe that the world really needs that more than ever before. I chose to come back to Tommy because I really believe that brands have a responsibility to play a leading role in creating a more inclusive, more caring, more sustainable society and industry. I could think of no better company or people to help bring those ideals to life than Tommy.”
The functions that report to Baker are the product groups, marketing group, creative services (store design and showroom), brand strategy and consumer insights, and licensing.
“It’s the first time we’re connecting all those very brand pieces together to get a function where we can look at the brand from the beginning to the end,” added Hagman.
The various brand leaders, such as Gary Sheinbaum, ceo of Tommy Hilfiger Americas; Tom Chu, regional president of PVH Asia, as well as Hagman, report to Stefan Larsson, president of PVH Corp. There is no president of Tommy Europe at the moment.
“The accountability of all those roles, in terms of pure Tommy Hilfiger brand, rolls up to Martijn and now, myself. Our roles are the only ones which include global scale. The new vision and new chapter we’re about to write is really led by this partnership with Martijn,” said Baker.
Asked what she hopes to accomplish as president and chief brand officer, Baker said, “My highest ambition would be that the Tommy Hilfiger is loved as much for its impact as memorable product. The leading priorities are that we align the brand and purpose around a singular purposeful mission that will really be the roadmap of the next chapter of the brand. Secondly, is to make sure we are truly aligning product, marketing, experiences, under one roof, so that the stories we want to share match the reality the consumers experience globally. Last is unlocking the amazing potential of our extraordinary team and creating a diverse culture that reflects the kind of world we want to live in.”
As for whether she’ll quickly forge another design partnership with a celebrity, Baker said, “We’re always exploring collaborations and partnerships. Even since I stepped out of the role, the company has continued on that path. I think the world has changed. The way that can come to life will probably be different in the future. But collaboration and that way of working with partners will always be a part of the Tommy brand.”
Does she feel like a single high-profile partner for the women’s wear still works, Baker said, “In my view, I think there’s more pace. Consumers actually expect newness, maybe even more frequently. I think the chase has become part of the experience.” She said it’s similar to what you’re seeing in the team’s new drop shop, which has smaller, faster, quicker, more limited-edition items. “I think the world is heading for sure in that direction. Also, the opportunity of collaboration is not just with big name celebrities, but with all different types of individuals, even consumers. There’s going to be in the future a whole evolution of what collaboration and partnerships can be,” said Baker.
Hagman added that it also feeds into more purpose-driven brands focusing on inclusivity and using the brand’s platform and strength to give opportunity to people, such as the company’s People’s Place program, where they leverage the brand’s platform to create opportunity for people from minority backgrounds and become a more inclusive brand.
Baker doesn’t seem to be overly worried about taking on this new role in the middle of a pandemic.
“I’m getting used to virtual working, but thankfully, I’m so lucky I know so many on the team,” she said. “Out of these tremendous challenges are some opportunities to move boldly that I believe Martijn, and Tommy and I have always wanted to go. As difficult as it is, it does feel like a time you can make big strides and go maybe faster towards what consumers are now expecting, even more from their brands and products,” she said.
While going after a younger customer is very important, she said one of the strengths of the brand is that they’ve always appealed to an attitude, and not only an age. “The youthful spirit has kept the brand young for a new generation. Making sure that we are really connecting emotionally with the next generation of Tommy consumers is a top priority,” she said.
Hagman and Baker have previously worked closely together at Amsterdam headquarters, sitting on the same floor for many years and talking about how to build brand equity. “That’s super exciting for both of us that we can now truly partner together on this next chapter,” said Hagman.
“I didn’t expect to be coming back to the company,” explained Baker. “When Martijn and I started talking, it felt like a really natural step. We were so aligned in where we believe that this company and this brand can go. We’re so excited, even though it’s challenging, what it means to build a business that’s designed for the 2020s. It’s a tall task, but I think that doing it as a team makes it feel more manageable. I’m personally excited to work with him and Tommy.”
She said she and Hilfiger talk on the phone several times as day. “Tommy is a fantastic inspiration, he is bringing new ideas and thoughts and visions to Martijn and I constantly. As always, he really supports us in shaping us into a direction that’s right for the business and the brand,” she said.
“As you know, it’s been a passion for Martijn as well. They’ve made great progress already. The other major priority for me is in the area of diversity and inclusion. That’s always been a big part of the history of the brand, and it’s personally very important to me. I have high ambitions, we all do, for how we hope to evolve the company and the brand to really be able to contribute more significantly to positive change in that space,” said Baker.
The conversation then turned to the importance of their wholesale versus direct-to-consumer business. “It’s clear that digital is here to stay,” said Hagman. “The digital sales channels have significantly gained market share. It’s also clear that brick-and-mortar is contracting as a result. For us, it [wholesale] has always been an extremely important channel where we have very strong relationships and long-lasting partnerships, and we will not walk away from it. Wholesale will remain an important part of our overall distribution mix. We’re having conversations with them on how is this ‘new normal’ shaping up. What also needs to change for the relatively outdated wholesale business models to survive and also come out of this strong, and find their position is this new distribution landscape. It’s an excellent channel to show your brand in the right way to the end consumers and to build on your brand equity with your wholesale partners.”
Hagman said he’s also seeing his wholesale accounts investing heavily in their own dotcom businesses.
He said the European business is continuing to make progress, as well as the other regions. “We knew back in March this is a long journey and is not going to be over in a couple of months. The way the virus is unfolding, we have to stay focused on adjusting and pivoting and re-prioritizing where needed to get through this. We are optimistic and we see that the brand still resonates very strongly with our end users as well as our customers and retail partners,” said Hagman.
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