I wasn’t familiar with Hammitt when I sat down with Tony Drockton at SuiteWorld, NetSuite’s annual customer conference, last week in San Jose. A minute hadn’t passed before I ascertained that Drockton lives up to the “Chief Cheerleader” title printed on his business card. The guy is a juggernaut, hell-bent on reinventing the way women shop for and enjoy their high-end handbags.
Drockton’s backstory is an unlikely one. He grew up bagging produce and canned goods in his dad’s independently run grocery store. After earning his MBA, he went on to make piles of money in the pre-recession mortgage boom. Today, he’s CEO of a bustling luxury accessories brand that sells handbags, clutches, and duffels ranging in price from $125 to upwards of $1400. More importantly, he’s the undisputed captain of the brand’s destiny, a commitment that just a few years ago left him nearly broke and homeless.
Drockton joined the company in 2008, inspired by loves of architecture, aesthetic, and childhood memories building relationships with customers in his dad’s grocery store. The bags Hammitt Los Angeles was designing and building were top quality from the leather to the stitches, worth every bit of an Armani and then some. Drockton loved the product, but he had a problem. A few problems, in fact. Hammitt’s distribution deal with major department stores like Bloomingdales was putting constant pressure on the company to discount it prices. It also kept him degrees removed from his customers.