Balibaris: A European expansion plan with a focus on England and Spain
Julien Schneider has been at the head of Balibaris for more than a year. The French brand that shares the same casual-chic style as its founder Paul Szczerba has been successfully dressing men for ten year. At a time when many brands are feeling the pressure due to inflation and consumers not spending on clothing, Balibaris has been doing well thanks to its CSP++ clientele, who still have strong purchasing power.
With its sales growing by 35% last year, a record turnover estimated at over 50 million euros and a double-digit increase since the beginning of 2023, the Parisian label has set its sights on Europe.
Balibaris intends to bring the French charm to new markets - or 'le charme Francais' as it says on its sweatshirts, t shirts and caps. In France, Balibaris is opening eight stores this year, including one in Biarritz and one in the Cap 3000 shopping centre on the outskirts of Nice. But it is also rolling out in Europe, where it is planning a self-financed expansion.
"We have opened a European visibility campaign," explains the general manager. "We can see where the traction is internationally. This allows us to gauge the appetite for the brand. And, while we were in tune with the results, it confirmed that there was resonance for the brand in England and Spain."
First stop, London: the brand already has two stores there, opened before the pandemic, and is performing well, with its Marylebone and Kin's Bridge stores in the top 10 of its more than 65 points of sale. The brand's teams have learned to deal with the administrative and time constraints of working with the UK market since Brexit and the brand will accelerate there with no less than 10 openings this year. A high-profile store in Convent Garden, popular among tourists, will open between the end of May and the beginning of June, followed by a boutique in Soho. Balibaris will also be opening stores in more low-key areas, in 80 to 100 square-metres spaces, in neighbourhoods with a more local clientele, such as Redchurch Street in Shoreditch or Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill.
"In these shops we will also push our identity. We don't have a homogeneous concept, just standardised brand markers. We convey French elegance, with the idea of Parisian ownership. And for each store Paul [Szczerba] hunts down the furniture. We take the time to do this, and I think it's part of the success of the brand... Along with the fact that we have very good in-store teams." In parallel, the brand will debut this spring on the online platform of the British department store, Selfridges. A great international showcase.
The second stage of its European expansion is Spain. The digital feedback suggests a great potential in this market where there is a strong male clientele for casual chic clothing. Fitted shirts, elegant plain jumpers and slim-fit chinos should echo the Balibaris offer. In any case, this is the gamble taken by the brand's management, which has signed an agreement with El Corte Ingles department stores, for eight corners. "We are setting up in cities with good potential," explains Julien Schneider. "And El Corte Ingles is the perfect launch pad for menswear. We know how to manage our business with department stores very well. In France, we are present in Paris and in the provinces and are among the top 3 of men's brands with the same positioning as ourselves. We like this format. We are already going to have three corners before the summer, two in Madrid and one in Palma de Mallorca. Palma has potential as there are both tourists and local customers who should appreciate our offer. In September, the brand will also set up in the Spanish department stores in Barcelona and Malaga."
By the end of 2023, the brand intends to have over 80 points of sale. This is enough to support the dynamism encountered since the beginning of the year, with double-digit growth in the first quarter. And above all, a step in the right direction of making Balibaris a "European Ralph Lauren", in line with its founder and general manager's ambition.
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