Telling the truth about SME life today

34: Radley

This upmarket ladies handbag and luggage brand was born in 1984 when its founder Lowell Harder began designing handbags and selling them in Camden Market at the weekends. As Harder recalls: “All my bags were unique as they were made from vegetable-tanned leather, which I had manufactured in India – you couldn’t get that kind of thing anywhere else.” They soon attracted the attention of retailers who were asking if they could sell them in their shops. “Then, one day, John Lewis rang and asked if it could send a buyer around. That was when it took off.”

Today Radley – best known for the West Highland Terrier logo on its bags – is sold in 500 independent retail outlets and department stores. The company now has three brands: Radley, Tula and Hidesign, and its handbags are the clear market leader with an estimated 14 per cent market share. Latest figures show Radley hitting a turnover of £42.3m, with compound growth at 100 per cent over the past four years. The company was sold to Exponent, a private equity firm, at the end of last year in a £130m deal. However, Harder remains the creative director. Exponent will provide the financial muscle to further expand Radley into international markets. The first overseas Radley flagship store opened in Dubai in September 2007, and the handbags are already being sold in major department stores in South-East Asia, as well as the States.


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