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Capri Names Cedric Wilmotte as Michael Kors CEO

The executive, a company veteran who is currently the chief operating officer of Versace, fills a role that has been vacant since last March. He’s tasked with continuing Kors’ upscale repositioning.
Cedric Wilmotte, CEO of Michael Kors, headshot.
Cedric Wilmotte is currently the chief operating officer of Versace and will assume the top role at Michael Kors in April. (Capri Holdings)

Capri Holdings, the American fashion group that also owns Jimmy Choo and Versace, has appointed Cedric Wilmotte as the chief executive of its biggest label, Michael Kors, the company announced Monday.

Wilmotte, who is currently the chief operating officer of Versace, is no stranger to the Kors brand. From 2008 to 2021, he was head of the Michael Kors division in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Wilmotte will assume his new role Apr. 3 — more than a year after his predecessor Joshua Schulman unexpectedly exited the company. Schulman had been slated to take over the whole portfolio and succeed Capri CEO John Idol, who is responsible for creating the conglomerate in the image of a European luxury group and had led Michael Kors since 2003.

“Cedric is a strong leader with extensive retail and merchandising experience and has a deep understanding of the Michael Kors brand and consumer,” Idol said in a statement.

Like Schulman before him, Wilmotte will be tasked with carving out a more luxury positioning for the Kors brand, which had seen its status in the market diluted in recent years by rampant discounts and wide distribution in department stores. That transformation, well underway by the time Schulman joined in 2021, has continued even amid the search for a permanent CEO at Michael Kors.

Capri has sustained strong growth in recent quarters, so far resilient against softening consumer demand that has affected a number of its peers and beating Wall Street estimates. In its most recent quarter ending Nov. 9, the company posted revenue growth of 8.6 percent resulting in $1.4 billion in sales. But in the same earnings report, Capri reduced its full-year revenue forecast from $5.85 billion in the previous quarter to $5.7 billion.

Despite recent headway in repositioning Kors, sales at the brand have largely been stagnant, though this is partly a side effect of raising prices, exiting some multibrand retailers and other efforts to boost margins. In the year ending Apr. 2, 2022, Michael Kors saw sales total $3.95 billion — down from $4.5 billion in 2019. In the same period, operating margin grew from 20 percent to 25 percent.

Wilmotte has a long way to go to turn Michael Kors into America’s answer to Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Analysts note that Michaels Kors and Capri overall face shrinking wholesale orders as well as a still inflation-sensitive consumer. Idol has maintained that Capri won’t return to its old discount-heavy ways, however.

“We’d rather have less inventory in [wholesale and] … preserve our margins,” Idol told analysts in November. “We’ve worked very hard over the last three years to elevate the Michael Kors brand, and we don’t want to take a step backwards.”

The strategy is working; investors are happy. Capri stock is up 14 percent in the past year, even as some retailers saw their market capitalisations erased by half or more.

“All in, we believe there were very few holes to poke here,” Wells Fargo analyst Ike Boruchow wrote in a Nov. 9 note. “The strategies to stabilize the MK brand are working.”

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