Atlas for Men targets new international markets for outdoor wear
Atlas for Men has never made waves. Despite a 20-year presence in the distance-selling market, it has always steered clear of the leading players. Yet, the French specialist in outdoor apparel and accessories for men has made significant inroads into the market. It is present in 11 countries, and has posted a growth rate of 15% per annum ever since the company was set up in 1999. Atlas For Men used to be associated with an outdated style, but it has now started to shed its old skin, replacing it with something more contemporary.
Atlas For Men’s results speak for themselves. In 2018, it generated a revenue of €190 million, and is forecasting €215 million for the 2019 financial year. “It is important to note that we are growing in all the markets we’re operating in. Even in France, where we are long-established, we are growing by 7%. In Germany, we’re growing by 20%. Our main markets are currently France, Germany, Russia and the UK, then Switzerland and, not far behind, the Czech Republic and Poland,” said Marc Delamarre, founder and CEO of Atlas for Men.
The brand reached the UK in 2018, and met with almost immediate success. After just one year, the country is Atlas for Men's fourth largest market. How could it be so successful in such a highly competitive market? “There is a convergence between our range and the customers’ expectations. The market is polarised. Our products are priced affordably, something that is in high demand, and the range is classic, not subject to changes in fashion,” added Delamarre. In Russia, Atlas for Men's third-largest market, the brand has been operating since 2012 via a subsidiary run by Frenchman Christophe Jolivet, who oversees a team of 15 employees.
“Before entering a new market, we draw up a local marketing plan and we work with the media in the country. Our staff in Paris comprises 12 different nationalities. Being able to adapt to each country’s specificities is an integral part of our strategy, and our main strength,” said Delamarre.
Delamarre has a nose for business. He was the marketing director of educational publisher Editions Atlas at the end of the 90s, and launched Atlas For Men in 2000, as a men's ready-to-wear mail-order catalogue designed to diversify the group's business. Last June, it was sold by Activa Capital to Latour Capital, and is now part of the portfolio of the investment fund set up by French businessmen Cédric Bannel (founder of Caradisiac), Philippe Léonie (former CEO of Spir) and Alain Madelin.
From early on, Atlas for Men adopted a fast-fashion approach, dropping 18 collections per year, one every three weeks. It sells a range of men’s sportswear and outdoor clothes and accessories, as well as underwear and pyjamas. The collections consist of 80 items, of which 70% are new products and 30% are regular ones. The catalogue relies heavily on promotions and multipacks.
“We use commercial promotions to energise sales. We try to create demand. Customers soon realise that the collections are only available for three weeks,” explained Delamarre. In addition, a women’s line was launched in 2014, and it now accounts for approximately 16% of total revenue. Nevertheless, Delamarre isn’t keen to expand in the womenswear market, which he regards as “too competitive”.
Atlas for Men currently has 7 million customers on file across 11 European countries and, last year, it sold over 19 million items. Its priorities are international expansion and online growth. The first Atlas for Men e-shops were launched in 2010 and, from 2015, each country where the brand is present has a dedicated site tailored to local requirements. In 2016, the range was further expanded in France, adding more menswear and womenswear items, accessories and also articles for leisure activities, gardening, DIY and even home decoration.
E-sales currently account for 30% of the total, and 15 people are working on this side of the business. The remaining 70% of sales is generated by the paper catalogue. “We are rooted in push marketing, while the internet is typically a pull channel. There is no point in pushing promotions on the web without a degree of brand awareness, which in turn needs to be fed by content and a strong image. This is why we are concentrating on branding initiatives, on SEO and a mobile-first strategy. Our preferential tool will be our mobile app, followed by the website. By 2022, we would like digital channels to generate half of our sales,” said Delamarre.
While Atlas for Men has long been associated with an older consumer target, recently it has started to modernise, introducing a fresh brand image, a new logo, last March, and expanding its social media presence. In September, it invited several bloggers and Instagrammers aged 25-40 and specialised in outdoor activities to a kayaking trip on the Loire river. From the start of this month, and until January 5, it is busy recruiting brand ambassadors.
As for Atlas for Men’s international plans, they are next focused on eastern and northern Europe. The brand will arrive in Hungary in March, and then in Sweden by the end of 2020. Next on the agenda is reaching Canada by 2021, before entering the US market. Atlas For Men is busy on international expansion projects in several directions, in an attempt to eventually achieve a global scale.
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