Promod's Julien Pollet talks transformation strategy, sustainability and numbers
With a new logo made up of the brand's initial and a heart, a communication campaign centred on women and commitment, Promod and its 418 shops are to unveil this autumn a redesigned visual identity, which should reflect the changes it has made in recent years.
This is an opportunity to explain and understand Julien Pollet's strategy. Pollet is a member of the founding family and president for the past four years of the women's retailer, created in the north of France in 1975, for whom the failure of fellow retailer Camaïeu was felt as a bomb explosion across the industry. In the mid-range segment, Promod, which has a turnover of 342 million euros, intends to continue to exist by regularly adapting its offer, maintaining its prices and continuing its efforts to limit its footprint on the planet.
FashionNetwork.com: Why did you decide to change Promod's visual identity?
Julien Pollet: The aim of this campaign and the change of logo is to publicise all the work undertaken to transform the company. We have completed the first phase, and it is time to make it known. Faced with a very competitive market, our objective has been to move from a mass business model, with more and more products, manufactured further and further away, and sold at even lower prices - which was successful until the 2000s but no longer works - to more focused model, centred on 'producing less but better'. I call this 'responsible and tailor-made retail'.
FNW: What are its principles?
JP: In order to ensure that Promod is sustainable, we started with our know-how, which is to develop casual, colourful and printed products in our design studio, with accessible styles and prices. We strive to meet our customers' expectations by producing the exact quantity of products needed, but also by limiting promotions. We had to work on the product before we could make a statement about who we are: the aim of this 'pro-women' campaign is to re-establish Promod as a brand for the majority of people, and not just as a retailer.
FNW: What new customers are you targeting?
JP: Promod has tended to age with its clientele, so we are targeting younger consumers in particular, but it is not a question of being youthful; above all, we want to keep our loyal customers, and reactivate the memory of former customers by saying to them "Come back and try Promod products! There's something new, a bolder and more responsible offer".
FNW: Does having a recognisable graphic logo, like the high-end houses, mean that you want to convey a more premium image?
JP: Premium, no. We are not changing our positioning. I would say that we want to be more assertive. As you probably know, the retail tradition in the North is to live hidden... For a long time, we thought that the store was the best way to communicate the brand. Today, we have to activate other levers, times are changing and we want to make ourselves heard. And Promod is now written in capitals and the font is more assertive.
FNW: In terms of the offer, what exactly have you reworked?
JP: The range of essentials, which have a longer lifespan, has been rethought, keeping a fashionable touch and protecting the introductory prices. We have made an effort to trim margins. We have also stretched our price range: in the main collection, some of the more elaborate products that add value to the collection have been priced higher. Previously, our dresses were priced at a maximum of 70 euros; now some are sold at 90 euros, and it works.
And, since we want to address a larger number of women, our range of sizes will also be expanded for the spring-summer 2023 season, offering sizes 46 and 48. First online and, gradually, in stores. This is a request that we regularly receive on social networks, and that our shop assistants get asked in store.
Lastly, Promod Couture was launched a year ago: these are lengths of fabric from dormant stocks or end of series stock that we sell on our e-shop, as well as patterns for our flagship products. A community of seamstresses, who appreciated the quality of our materials, came together around this project via a dedicated Instagram page.
FNW: Where are you on the road to making fashion less harmful to the planet?
JP: Two years ago, the 'Promod for good' programme was launched: we started with 10% more sustainable products in the collection (i.e. containing at least 15% more responsible materials), and by 2022, we will reach 48% of products in the collection (including 95% of the permanent essential products). The goal of 100% by 2025 is still valid, and we also want to raise our requirement to 20 or 25% more responsible materials to label an item.
We are also making more use of local imports, which represent 35% of our
of our supply. Producing closer to home gives us more flexibility and fairer management, even if we are not going to abandon China tomorrow, which is very strong in blurred fabrics, or India for embroidery. Some models are also produced on demand, like our iconic 'Gisèle' coat.
FNW: How does your customer-to-customer website work?
JP: We stopped this initiative, which did not offer a sufficient level of service and was therefore disappointing for customers. It must also be said that Vinted is so powerful in the second-hand fashion market...
We are now focusing on collection, with a trade-in offer for items of all brands that the customer can send free of charge to our partner Rediv (formerly known as Patatam). The customer then receives a Promod voucher, or can choose to have a tree planted. Over the past year, we have helped collect 40,000 items, 32,000 of which have been sold in the Rediv partner network (hypermarkets in particular). And recently in two Promod Stock outlets. We will then think about installing second-hand corners in some of the network's shops, or why not launch a boutique concept dedicated solely to second-hand clothes.
FNW: Is the new identity being translated into stores?
JP: A new version of our store concept has been developed and is currently being applied to seven stores in the network, and will be implemented in the Forum des Halles shopping centre in Paris in early 2023. Although it is not unique, this layout is brighter, white and very modular, since its aim is to leave all the space for our very visual and colourful products. We have also reduced the checkout areas to give more space to the fitting rooms.
FNW: Are there any openings planned?
JP: 380 points of sale in France is enough and we are not going to expand. There are some openings and closures when some streets or shopping areas become more or less attractive, or when new centres are opened.
FNW: In the export sector, you have seriously cut back in the last few years (notably the closure of Germany). With hindsight, was this the right solution to move forward?
JP: We started concentrating on French-speaking countries before the crisis, to better focus our investments on a shorter perimeter, consisting of our home market, and three neighbouring countries (e.n, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg total some forty shops). This was a good call, particularly to get through the pandemic in a less painful way. We have also been able to renovate and refresh our shops, at a rate of about fifty per year, which had not necessarily been the case in previous years.
FNW: What is the annual turnover of the brand, and what are you aiming for this year?
JP: In 2021 (March 2021 to February 2022), the company generated 342 million euros in sales, managing to break-even, which it had not achieved since 2014. For the current financial year, it is still difficult to predict its outcome. For the time being, sales in the first half of the year are down 14% on the previous year: June and July, which are usually strong months, were not very dynamic, and August was a bad month. We have been doing better since the school year began, so the year will be determined in the winter season.
FNW: Is the rise in energy costs affecting you?
JP: The cost of energy has increased fourfold for Promod. This makes the equation even more difficult to solve, but it is not as big of an expense as in other sectors. It is a challenge to make energy savings, and we can go beyond the 10 to 15% reduction in consumption.
For the company, the cost of raw materials has also risen, by 12 to 14%. We are only passing on part of this to the consumer, with prices rising on average by 6%. While still protecting the introductory prices, I would remind you.
FNW: We can't end this discussion without talking about Camaïeu, a women's retailer in the North of France that has just closed its doors. How did you experience this news?
JP: The liquidation of Camaïeu was like a big explosion. Promod has grown with and alongside the brand for forty years. I showed my solidarity with all the staff, and Promod teams contacted Camaïeu employees to fill vacancies. It is never a good sign when a big player exits the market, and it proves that, in the clothing industry, transformations are necessary and must be carried out by the companies.
But this takes time and resources. At Promod, we are independent and have the stability to make these changes. This campaign helps us to spread the message: we remain positive and we believe!
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