French childrenswear label Bonton expands range, targets China, USA
2021 is a busy year for Bonton. In a business environment still marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the French childrenswear label has celebrated its 20th anniversary and hired a new managing director. In March, Jean-Michel Terrien, former managing director of womenswear label Paule Ka, took charge of Bonton, tasked with expanding the product range, strengthening omni-channel operations and, above all, boosting the label’s overseas presence, chiefly in China and the USA.
“Ever since it was founded, Bonton has positioned itself as a very Parisian brand. Spearheaded by Marco Polo [the holding company of French businessman Xavier Marie, which bought Bonton in 2018], the label has opened stores outside Paris and diversified its range by introducing, for example, furniture. As a result, Bonton increased its revenue and improved its profitability in 2019. But then the [Covid-19] crisis happened, showing that it is not safe to put all of one’s eggs in the same basket,” said Terrien.
Products for the whole family
Diversification is the name of the game now at Bonton, even though Terrien said that “childrenswear remains the label's core business.” Bonton, which has been doing rather well with its collections for little girls, is looking to broaden its range to include clothes for babies and little boys. It will also target the difficult pre-teen segment, by dropping seasonal capsule-collection collaborations.
Womenswear, introduced by Bonton with looks derived from the children’s collections, is becoming a fully fledged line with an extended wardrobe, and is now featured in ad hoc sections within the label’s shops. “Ultimately, the idea is to commercialise our women's collections via new wholesale partners,” said Terrien.
Bonton is keen to appeal to the whole family, while at the same time expanding its lifestyle range, in segments like home decoration, bed linen and furniture. The label has hired agents to market its furniture products to specialist retailers in France, Scandinavia and Italy.
Turning stores into experiential venues
Bonton, which operates 12 stores in France, two elsewhere in Europe and four in Japan, and is additionally present at 200 multibrand retailers, wants to turn its stores into places that foster customer loyalty. “We don’t intend to open more stores for the time being, but our shops must become experiential venues, able to create an emotional connection with families,” said Terrien. Each store will therefore offer a calendar of weekly workshops focusing on artistic activities like dancing or drawing.
Not surprisingly, Bonton also wants to boost its e-tail performance. In 2020, online sales accounted for 6% of sales, a percentage that is expected to rise to 20% in 2022. To drive this growth, the label has reinforced its service range (click & collect, online pre-orders, staggered payments and more) and is busy recruiting customers via its social media channels.
China, the USA in the cross-hairs
To step up its growth pace, Bonton doesn’t want to overlook China. It recently partnered with a local firm, and will open its first store in Shanghai in January 2022. Bonton intends to establish a strong presence in this fashion-oriented megalopolis before entering other Chinese cities. “Our plan is to avoid getting lost in the crowd,” said Terrien, who stated that, in parallel, Bonton is establishing a web presence in the country, chiefly via Tmall.
The USA is another priority market for Bonton, which is now working with Showroom Lab, the company run by Antoine Elie, former head of Kidiliz USA. Targeting major retail chains, the label has established a presence at Maisonette and Bloomingdale’s, and is working on introducing shop-in-shops at strategic independent retailers.
Bonton, which has increased its use of organic cotton and knitwear in the collections, generated a revenue of €20 million in 2019. A figure that, due to the Covid-19 crisis, fell by 30% in 2020. In 2021, another year in which stores have remained closed for extended periods, Bonton’s sales are expected to drop by 20% compared to 2019, but the label is predicting a return to growth in 2022.
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