Revamped cashmere label Eric Bompard goes on the offensive
In the course of just over a year, since the deal to acquire French cashmere specialist Eric Bompard was finalised by Compagnie Marco Polo (the group owned by French businessman Xavier Marie) in association with APAX Partners and BPIFrance, the label has been working on a transformation which is now finally complete. It is a genuine revolution: Eric Bompard is gearing up for a future, the next four years, in which its new owners are planning to double the current revenue of €72 million, which was slightly up in like-for-like terms at the end of March 2019.
The first element of the transformation involves the product range, following the appointment as creative director in 2018 of Emily Harris, in charge until the Fall/Winter 2020-21 season. According to Jonathan Trepo, general manager of Compagnie Marco Polo, Bompard’s design studio had a clear mission: “to give the label a more directional dimension. This is the path that [Eric Bompard] needs to follow. We mustn’t simply rely on our essentials, we must attract customers with a strong new collection, encouraging them to come back to our stores more often,” says Trepo, who works alongside Xavier Marie and his wife Julie Brisson in managing the day-to-day operations of Compagnie Marco Polo’s labels (among them Paule Ka, Bonton, Le Petit Souk and Rautureau). The appointment of a general manager for Eric Bompard is expected soon.
The product range has also been extended, with the introduction of a new, more accessible line in a wool/cashmere blend. Its prices start at €170 for a sweater, another move to attract new customers. New materials are at the heart of Eric Bompard’s diversification strategy: the label has broadened its range of fabrics, introducing luxury brushed cashmere as well as cashmere/cotton, cashmere/alpaca, cashmere/silk and cashmere/yak blends.
After working on the product range, Eric Bompard then tackled distribution. “E-tail is clearly a priority,” insists Trepo (formerly with Zalando).
“[Eric Bompard] was among the first luxury labels to act in this direction. E-commerce was launched 15 years ago, and it now accounts for 12% of sales. In the next four years, our goal is to reach 25%. To do so, in mid-October we will launch a new website, with more room for content. It will extend to a greater number of countries, 250, featuring local languages, currencies and means of payment, and offer free delivery and returns. By 2020, our plan is to go full-circle and connect it with our brick-and-mortar business, introducing delivery and returns from stores."
Of course, physical stores are also part of the new owner's ambitious investment plan. Eric Bompard currently operates just over 70 monobrand shops, the majority of them in France, though the label is also present in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the UK.
“I’m aware that the trend is to open few stores, but we will be opening many of them. Between five and 10 per year, starting from France but also rapidly strengthening our position across Europe,” says Trepo.
In 2019, Eric Bompard introduced a new store concept, opening seven shops in France (among others, in Lyon, Tours and Nancy), renovating about 20 others and opening a concession at department store Le Bon Marché. The new-look interiors make extensive use of wood, and their main feature is the way in which the collection is showcased: the products are no longer folded and arrayed by colour, but hung, to display their new style and cuts.
The focus on monobrand stores and e-tail isn’t the only innovation in Eric Bompard’s distribution strategy. In a small revolution for the label, Eric Bompard is also going wholesale. The Fall/Winter 2020 collection will be presented in January to concept stores and department stores. The main goal of Eric Bompard’s wholesale strategy is to accelerate its international development. Sales outside France currently account for 20% of the total, and the goal is to reach 50% in four years.
By means of the wholesale channel, Eric Bompard is keen to find partners to bolster its business in countries where it already operates one or more stores, as well as in new markets, in northern Europe, Spain or the USA. “We will turn to Asia at a later stage,” Trepo adds.
Eric Bompard is attacking on several fronts, an offensive that wouldn’t make sense if the label didn’t make an effort to let people know it has a new style. It therefore launched a far-reaching advertising campaign in France and abroad, to make its presence felt in its new arena. The visuals have a fresh mood, a family, or more accurately ‘tribal’ one, and the positioning is of course bourgeois luxury, with a twist though.
“A bourgeois family that is a bit wacky, a bit battered,” said Agnès Calef, who is in charge of marketing and communication at Bompard. The goal is to show the audience that Eric Bompard has transformed its approach and is now a directional label, no longer one specialised in classic fashion alone.
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