Serge Blanco pushes for domestic and worldwide expansion
Costantino Costa, Global Brand Director of French menswear label Serge Blanco, is just back from Japan, where he has inked deals with the Isetan-Mitsukoshi retail group for the opening of three retail corners in Tokyo, two of them in the Ginza district and one at Haneda Airport, for the Autumn/Winter 2017-18 season. And another one will be added the following season, located in the Shizuku area.
"We have been working on recharging our exports in the last three years, he said. Formerly, some of our products were available in Japan, in the contemporary fashion section, but thanks to these retail corners our visibility will be much improved. Our efforts are bearing fruit." The label has been busy repositioning its brand image in the last three years, striving to make up for the ground it lost to some of its competitors. "In the end, we decided to concentrate on retail distribution." The strategy has apparently been effective, judging from the €32 million revenue generated in 2016, up 11% compared to 2015. This year's goal is to raise the bar even further, reaching a 15% growth rate.
To do so, Serge Blanco is above all opening new stores in France, with four inaugurations between March and April, all of them in franchising, bringing the total number of domestic stores to 28 directly owned and 32 in franchising.
Another seven openings are planned in major French cities for the next autumn/winter, as well as three retail corners at the Galeries Lafayette department stores. "After this, we will slow down our expansion in France and focus on export markets."
In Italy for example, Serge Blanco has opened a monobrand store in Santa Margherita Ligure, a sea resort close to jet-set hotspot Portofino. The store will add to the label's visibility in a country where Serge Blanco is already available at 25 multi-brand retailers.
As for Spain, the partnership with distributor Clemente Gomez de Zamora is forging ahead. The label is now present in some twenty multibrand shops, and the main project in the country is the opening of a Madrid flagship store in summer 2018. In the USA, Serge Blanco is distributed via some fifteen clients, and it is planning to exhibit again at the Project trade show in New York, to further grow on this huge market.
One of Costa's main missions is updating Serge Blanco’s brand image, something that takes time. The label was originally rooted in the rugby world, Serge Blanco being a former French international rugby star. The challenge is to veer increasingly towards a "more urban kind of casual chic", otherwise defined as "contemporary". "We are still selling a lot of polos and shirts. Previously they accounted for between 65% and 70% of our revenue. Nowadays, they account for only 50% of our sales, since our clients have understood that ours is an all-round collection. Our trousers for example sell very well."
The brand is distinctive for its plus-size range, as all of its products have a maximum size of 6 XL. But cuts are straighter, more fitted. Polos have taken on a fresh look, for example the summer models in washed linen or slub jersey, logo-less and worn under a blazer, are appreciated. The label's sourcing strategy has evolved too. More than 80% of the fabrics come from Europe or Japan, shirt fabrics notably from manufacturers like Albini in Italy or Liberty in the UK. Manufacturing is localised in Portugal (shirts), Tunisia (trousers) and Mauritius, home to a long-standing supplier. Only nylon garments and down-jackets are manufactured in China.
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