Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Philip Green has a problem with four purple crushed-velvet dresses hanging from a display stand.
“Here’s one of my pet hates: too many garments on a rack,” Green says, thrusting the frocks at Becky Bateman, manager of U.K. fashion chain Topshop’s flagship London store.
It’s a Thursday morning in early October, and Green, 57, has strolled down London’s Oxford Street from the head office of Arcadia Group Ltd., his privately held retail clothing company, for a store inspection.
That’s the kind of attention Green has also lavished on Topshop’s first U.S. outlet. In April, he flew supermodel Kate Moss to New York to open the 25,000-square-foot (2,323-square- meter) emporium in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood that he says cost $25 million to prepare.
The British billionaire is rolling out Topshop at a time when Americans are holding tightly onto their wallets. Total U.S. apparel sales dropped 7 percent in the first six months of 2009 to $85 billion compared with the same period last year, according to NPD Group Inc., a New York-based industry research firm.
Green has the cash to back the expansion in a country that has been a graveyard for British retailers. Since 2000, his family has taken about 1.8 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in dividends from Arcadia and Bhs Ltd., his privately held U.K. department store chain. Green owns Arcadia through Taveta Ltd., a holding company registered in the British offshore tax haven of Jersey in the Channel Islands, and his personal fortune is estimated by the Sunday Times of London to be 3.83 billion pounds.
Topshop in New York is old news, we all knew it was happening and the problems of opening due to January sales, but the news that Phillip Green still wants to expand within the US marketing could prove difficult. There's a reason why Topshop is so successful in the UK, it's young British fashion to the nines. It's not Gap, American Apparel or Abercrombie, it has it's own style that cannot be transferred across borders. The "US citizens" may realise that the British are becoming more fashionable, but that doesn't mean that all of them are willing to dress like us. I have a cousin in America, and our tastes in fashion are so different, mainly because she buys into brands like Ugg that although popular here, every American girl has one. I wouldn't wear what she wears and I don't think she'd wear what I wear, because we'd both get dirty looks from out peers and thoughts of "what the hell is she wearing?"
Some brands have managed to bridge the Atlantic Ocean gap, both ways, but because Topshop has such a specific customer database, it may not be possible to transfer everything here to the States. They would need to have new designers, new researchers and new collections to appeal to them. A costly experience.