From bags to riches: the success of Radley handbags

Julian Calderara, Les Binet and Sarah Carter

At the end of 2007, Radley + Co, makers of distinctive handbags branded with a small Scottie dog, exchanged hands for £130m – only two years after it had been valued at £42m in its first private equity deal. Truly 'bags to riches'.

The advertising campaign was cited as a key contributor to this success. Fashion brands, until now, have been conspicuous by their absence from the IPA Effectiveness Awards. Fragmented markets, small media budgets and limited industry research data have tended to result in advertising being an 'act of faith', rather than rigorously evaluated.

But when private equity is invested in a brand to the tune of £42m, an act of faith is not good enough. This case shows that fashion advertising can have a huge financial payback, and that it can be measured rigorously. Along the way, we will discover a new kind of advertising effect, and a new method of evaluation.