Dockers hoping to progress across three key markets, says European general manager
Since late 2015, Francisco Gonzalez-Meza Hoffmann has been at the head of Dockers in Europe. Gonzalez-Meza Hoffman had previously been at Perry Ellis, developing the activity for its brands Original Penguin, Farah, and the eponymous Perry Ellis, across Europe. He has been forging the Levi-Strauss-owned brand’s new identity since 2017. Dockers has created a new marketing strategy, playing on the young entrepreneur look, which has been performing quite well.
The European director, who heads a 30-person team based in Belgium, tells FashionNetwork.com about the brand’s strengths and its future plans for development over the next couple of years.
FashionNetwork.com: Last year, you announced a 14% increase in sales for Dockers Europe. Your parent company Levi Strauss has just released its annual results. What was your performance?
Francisco Gonzalez-Meza Hoffmann: We have seen a double-digit increase compared to 2018. It’s similar to the growth we experienced last year. And this is despite the Yellow Vest protests, the strikes in France and the complex political situations in several other countries.
FNW: What are the key markets for Dockers Europe?
FGMH: About 80% of our revenue comes from three specific countries. Spain is our leading market, where we already have six stores and a presence in 70 El Corte Inglès department stores. In France, we are sold at Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette-BHV network. Two stores have opened on the outskirts of Paris, and we have four other stores in the Paris area currently underway.
FNW: Are you looking in Paris?
FGMH: We have a very pragmatic approach. It’s called “bullet to cannonball,” by which we specifically target areas where we already have a customer presence. We’ve seen that these store openings allow us to reinforce the performance of our key accounts. With six stores, we can analyze the results and readjust our approach accordingly. We’re determined to move forward for 2021-2022.
FNW: What is the ideal size for your vision?
FGMH: Today, our stores are between 50 and 80 sqm. However, we would really be able to take off and go deepen our product-assortment with a space of 100 to 120 sqm. With El Corte Inglès in Spain, we have taken over several larger spaces, yielding some very interesting results. Today, we have 25 franchises and the rest is wholesale. Our Barcelona store in Diagonal Mar is our highest-performing store worldwide. In total, we have six stores in Spain and three in Portugal.
FNW: What is your third market?
FGMH: Turkey, even if we were met with political upheavals there too, affecting last year’s economy. After a complicated first semester, we were still able to achieve an important increase in the second semester. With Boyner as our partner, we have a presence in six stores, as well as in department stores and on their e-commerce.
FNW: How do you perform across other markets?
FGMH: Despite Brexit, we have had good results in the UK. In Italy, we can be found at Coin and La Rinascente. We have also partnered with Zalando in Europe.
FNW: In the recent annual report, Dockers is mentioned as one of the factors for the group’s slowing pant and bottom sales. Are you afraid that this will happen in Europe?
FGMH: Actually, no. We are on an upward trajectory in Europe and the group can see our results for the continent. We’re kind of like a laboratory, and I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing.
FNW: I assume you’re referring to product range. You’re known for your Khakis. Do you want to develop your selection of tops? Levi Strauss has backed progress in this area. Do you want to adopt the same strategy?
FGMH: Today, bottoms represent 75% of our selection. We are aiming for a 50:50 ratio with tops. However, we won’t have the same approach as Levi’s because our older clients hold a greater amount of purchasing power. We’re working on our outerwear, as well as on t-shirts and sweatshirts of course. With our Smartflex fabric, we also intend to develop our fleece products. We’re aiming for a casual cut that works for both professional meetings and more relaxed atmospheres.
FNW: Yes, as for your product selection, Levi’s has commented on the Chino XX recently. Does this present a challenge for you?
FGMH: Their clients are much younger, usually between 16 and 25 years old. The price is different, the cut is different and the style is different. They’re more fashionable and in keeping with streetwear, whereas we design cuts for older, more mature men.
FNW: For two years, you’ve been working towards a young-entrepreneur message. Is this an effort to make the brand younger?
FGMH: A lot has been changed in the past two years. We’ve been working around the “casual Friday” attitude. We noticed that there was this whole population working as entrepreneurs, who didn’t follow the typical nine to five workday. That’s the mentality we’re promoting: total flexibility to go from a business presentation, to an outing with friends or to an appointment with an investor.
FNW: Levi's’ strong comeback has also been linked to investments in communication and marketing. Do you want to take the same path?
FGMH: We’ve relied on a television marketing strategy. The same percentage is spent on marketing, and our revenue and investments have increased. So yes, our resources are growing and beyond that, we have done a lot of work over the past three years to reduce the share of promoted products. It was one of our objectives: to improve profitability.
FNW: In your opinion, where will Dockers see growth in Europe?
FGMH: Across the next two or three years, I picture an increase across our key markets. Direct sales to consumers make up about 75% of our total sales, serving as an important growth-driver that allows us to express our identity and show how we’re different.
We have stores across Spain, in Bilbao, Madrid and Barcelona. We will also be opening in the McArthur Glenn designer outlet in Malaga. But I think that there is still an opportunity to open at least another 10 stores in various Spanish cities by partnering with different franchises.
In France, I believe we could double in size if we reached just 10% of Levi’s’ menswear presence. As for Turkey, we are still working on a fully-functional website, which we hope will help us develop that market.
FNW: Are you expanding in other markets?
FGMH: Various parties in the UK have shown interest. We will be setting up a pop-up store there in 2020, in order to display the brand’s potential. Coin and La Rinascente will help us progress in Italy, where we will have pop-up stores in 2020/21. And there is also an opportunity with e-commerce across all of Europe.
FNW: As China’s activity slows down, is there potentially an effect on the manufacturing of your future collections?
FGMH: The group has diversified its sourcing for a while now. As for Dockers, the production of our key products is carried out in Cambodia and Bangladesh. But we have also brought the sourcing for several product categories closer, to Turkey.
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