French fashion federation sets up grant scheme to boost labels' digital capabilities
The lockdown period has exposed the extent of the digital divide. It exists between those with individual internet access and those who don’t have it, or have only shared access. And it exists for businesses too, especially in the fashion industry.
For two months, French fashion stores have remained closed as part of the measures to fight the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic. During this lengthy period, labels, chains and retailers equipped with digital solutions have managed to remain operational and stay connected with their partners.
To bridge the digital divide as quickly as possible, and compensate for the weak digital capabilities of many fashion labels, the French women’s ready-to-wear federation - which for several years has been urging the sector to digitalise - has drawn up a support scheme for French fashion companies.
“Since the start of the crisis, the French women’s ready-to-wear federation has introduced a huge number of initiatives to support and help fashion entrepreneurs during this troubled period,” said Pierre-François Le Louët, the federation’s president. “Given that the retail sector's recovery will be gradual, and that there is still uncertainty about future trade shows and showrooms, we have devised a plan to help implement the omni-channel strategies necessary for our affiliates’ survival,” he added.
The federation’s digital boost plan (Plan d'amplification digitale, PAD, in French) is designed to touch on those digital elements identified as obstacles to the growth of fashion labels and retailers. It features two strands and has been drawn up as an à la carte menu for its applicants.
The first strand is direct funding, through the backing of Defi (France’s Committee for the Development and Promotion of Apparel), with individual grants of up to €1,500, enabling recipients to implement projects in any one of six thematic areas. For each of these areas, the federation has identified a series of potential partners. The first area covers the subscription to a B2B platform (like Joor, Le New Black, Playologie or Colect), the deployment of CRM tools (for example via Hubspot or Sugar), or access to an automated e-mail marketing platform like Mailchimp or Sarbacane.
The second area relates to brand image, from collection digitalisation to the adoption of image filtering, augmented reality, virtual reality and video solutions, for example via Change of Paradigm, Grand Shooting, Ordre, Picapics, Smartzer and Skyboy. The third area is the creation and optimisation of e-tail sites, via Presta Shop, Shopify, Squarespace, Socloz and Sensefuel. The fourth area covers strategic digital marketing support, via partners like Gender Agency, Heuritech, Retviews and Tagwalk. Fashion labels will also be able to apply for grants for the sub-contracting of e-tail operations (to Ankorestore, The Other Store and Weeby), and finally for accessing marketplaces like Diatly, Neteven, The Agent and Upplersur.
PAD’s second strand consists of the possibility of exclusive access to “a pool of digital partners that, in response to the crisis situation, have accepted to participate in a solidarity effort to help the labels affiliated to the federation, by providing ad hoc support at preferential commercial terms.”
The cash-flow situation is currently problematic for many labels, and digital transformation is a must. The federation's plan is part and parcel of a strategic approach, and is designed to allow dozens of French labels to activate digital projects at cheaper rates.
“We want to support 70 companies. The applications will be assessed by a selection committee and we would like the first projects to begin in the second half of the year,” said Le Louët, who noted that the lockdown period has made the fashion industry painfully aware of the necessity of this transformation.
Not all labels are fit for becoming fully digitalised and vertically integrated, but strengthening existing companies with a digital bolster might help them weather the current storm.
Applications for the PAD scheme can be made to the French women’s ready-to-wear federation between June 1 and 15, addressed to Anne-Laure Druguet (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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