Edith Keller – CEO of Carlin Creative Trend Bureau: Dear Thierry, it such a pleasure to let you have a word as part of our inteviews « our companies have talent ». Indeed, you have just receive the French « agrément PME PLUS », you have led an in-depth work for one and a half year to get it. Can you tell us more about this acknowledgement?
Thierry Simon – Well and Le Bourget Brand Director: We are surely the most important producer of pantyhoses in France but we didn’t gain a competitive edge from it. Since 2013, we used to let the OFG label to promote ouf frankness. To intensify our strategic choice, I have decided 2 main changements. The first one was to use the « Made in France » as our unique way of communication. Then I wanted to initiate (from the FEEF) a labeling process of our commitments, by contribution to the obtaining of the PME PLUS label, implemented by the FEEF and validated by the independant organisation ECO CERT.
E.K: Can you tell us then that you have the monopoly of the « Made in France » in the pantyhoses sector?
T.S: I think so because today it’s about 10 million of pieces that are entirely made in our factory in the Cévennes. Only the atypical products of very seasonal that come from our head office in Italy.
Le Bourget – All Colors
E.K: Apart from the declarative, does the Made in France help you to sell in France as to the export?
T.S: We are on the verge to start that new communication (Well campaign on the MIF in 2020, December, integration of the French drapeau in our logos since FW20, and apparition of the logo PME PLUS on our packagings FW2021). However since we are a B TO B TO C brand, first we have to convince our distributors, which are more and more sensitive to this topic. Thanks to an important job made by the FEEF, some distributors start to devote certain promotional operations dedicated to this commitment.
On the contrary, some are staying unsensitive to this speech during negociations periods. But I am still convinced that from a long term point of view, this speech will pay off.
E.K: It seems that you are quite the unique example of a product « Made in France » totally accessible and able to fight the imported products. How can you explain that?
T.S: Well is typically at the basis a mass-market brand. From the beginning those products have been conceived with a value-for-money approach, with the permanent issue of service rate. The different owners of the brand, as the downtrend continues, have always invested in the industrial tool. Today, a permanent Well product is made in 4 weeks, or a shorter period time than the boat transportation of a merchandise made in Asia.
E.K: Can you do a sum up of changes in purchasing behaviour during the COVID period?
T.S: I think that the GFK, by the end of December will anounce the decrease of the annual market GMS of 30/35%. Our two brands Well and Le Bourget will do better than the market (from 5/6 points = -26%). The first two months of the quarantine have shown a complete abandon of this product by our consumers whereas the shelves remained accessible (April, May – 80%). During the second quarantine, the continuity of the remote work has not promote the growth of the category. We are waiting for the GFK of November.
- On the products: All the « comfort » products (socks, body wears, bras, tops) have been sold well. In lingerie, some products very creative, printed or with very strong colours, have also been sold very well.
On your different distribution networks, which one is the « winner »? Of course, the digital has exploded. Even sometimes doubling or tripling the revenue, the loss of the major circuit was far away from being catched up.
E.K: For this holidays period, very particular, have you observed a craze for the fancy tights or your consumers have remained very reasonable ?
T.S: The consumers have remained very reasonable. The assembly gauges imposed by the government, were a important brake for the « party outfit ».
E.K: Let’s talk about your projects for the future. At Well, you have launched the range « My gambettes love the planet », which is knitted with 97% of recycled materials. Do you think about developing other ranges based on materials or recycled products?
T.S: Beyond the recycled materials, all of our R&D members have been trained in eco-design. That will pass by the energy economy, less packagings, or by the use of materials pre or post recyclings. No products will be launched without passing through this new philosophy.
E.K: Which initiatives do you want to develop to encourage your clients to facilitate well the recycling of their tights?
T.S: For now, no actions post consumer exists on the intimacy products. The experiences that we have tested with the different organisations (Relais etc.) have not been realized. However we are going to keep working on the pre consumer. Being in the 5 first manufacturers in Europe allows us to have priviledged partnerships with strings’ furnishers.
E.K: Some new ways of living, such as the remote work are going to impact your sector. Have you already innovations to answer those new expectations?
T.S: Yes indeed, especially in lingerie, you know perfectly well that the today decisions will be on the market in SS22. However we think that for the shoe, the end of the sanitary crisis will surely be followed by a good growth of that segment.
Le Bourget – Body
E.K: You have a product very linked to the seasons. Do you observ an evolution in the purchase rhythms those last seaons linked to the climate changes?
T.S: Yes for the shoe sector, we almost only offer one annual collection (from September to end of February).
E.K: You have worked a lot on the clients benefits, comfort for all bodies, flat belly, which is your next challenge?
T.S: Rightly, we think that the offer is quite complete, it is rather necessary to work on the understanding and the readability of it by the consumers.
E.K: The health or the « care » are becoming a major issue. Is it an axis of reflexion for you?
T.S: No. Three years ago, the smart textiles were doing the headlines at the Vegas fair. 3 years after the revolution has not been realized. The connected watches and phones have taken care of this mission. By this fact, I think that the textile will be more and more essential, natural, sustainable, well cut with strong committed values.
E.K: To finish on a more anecdotic note, have you resolved the mystery of the « unique sock »?
T.S: For the first time since 30 years, I have presented my collections without clients in front of me and without products to present, then the mystery of the unique sock can last!
E.K: Thank you a thousand times for your direct answers, that are traducing perfectly your state of mind : entrepreneur, committed and innovative. 2021 is starting qualitatively thank to you.