Sloggi CEO on the label’s ambition to spearhead underwire-free bra market
After stints at Nike and Puma, Ludovic Manzon took charge of Sloggi, one of the Triumph group’s bodywear and lingerie labels, in 2016. Since joining the company, Manzon has repositioned Sloggi on the market. Besides the label’s traditional product range, Manzon introduced two new lines, S by Sloggi and Move, striving to appeal to a wider audience. With a new range, new lines, a new communication strategy and a new pledge - to become the market leader in underwire-free bras - Sloggi now has the means to fulfil its ambitions, and is bolstering them by expanding its international retail footprint. Manzon talked to FashionNetwork.com about the label’s ongoing repositioning effort.
FashionNetwork.com: You opened the first Sloggi monobrand store in Greece this summer…
Ludovic Manzon: After testing a series of pop-up stores in various regions, we opened our first permanent store in Thessaloniki, then another three in Budapest, Hungary, and the latest in Hangzhou, China. Our objective is to open new stores both to boost our distributive presence and profitability, and Sloggi’s brand awareness. Between now and 2020, we are going to focus on eastern Europe and China, regions where it is essential we operate our own stores in order to optimise distribution. Once we will have validated our store concept, no earlier than in 2021, we will be able to begin franchising expansion in these two regions.
In early 2020-2021, we would like to open stores in the key cities of our most important markets, such as France, Italy, Germany and Japan. These stores would have a twin significance, commercially and from a marketing standpoint.
We also recently finished setting up the first Sloggi shop-in-shop, a 20-square-metre space inside the Matsuya department store in Tokyo’s Ginza district, due to open on February 15. We plan to deploy the same retail format worldwide. At the same time, we are creating the blueprint for our factory store format, which we will launch in the second part of 2019.
FNW: How has Sloggi’s distribution system evolved since 2016?
LM: We are diversifying. In Europe, we were essentially relying on hypermarket distribution. While it still remains one of the channels for our traditional range, we are developing the department store and specialist store channels too. Since 2017, we have been working on our own monobrand stores. We also launched an e-tail site. It currently accounts for only a fraction of our revenue, 3%; by 2020, we expect it will account for 6%, and we are targeting 8% in 2022. For the time being, it is only available in a few European countries. Next year, we will launch it in Japan and in the remaining European countries, such as Spain, then it will be China’s turn in 2020. Currently, our global e-commerce business, including online distributors, accounts for 15% of our revenue, and we are aiming for 20% to 25% by 2022.
FNW: What are your ambitions in the retail channel?
LM: Our direct retail sales currently result from our presence in Triumph stores, and add up to 10% of revenue. The goal is to gradually move out of Triumph stores and channel sales through Sloggi monobrand shops. During this transition phase, direct retail sales will still represent 10% of our business. From 2021-2022, we expect direct retail sales to account for 13% of revenue, generated by between 80 and 90 stores.
FNW: You forecast double-digit growth in 2018, did you achieve it?
LM: 2018 is our third consecutive growth year, after several years of stagnation, indeed decline. We were expecting a year of double-digit growth, but unfortunately, we ran into problems in delivering goods to our distributors, and I would like to apologise to them for the inconvenience. Now that we are again fully stocked, and we have improved service, we will get back to double-digit growth; orders for new items have reached record levels and I’m very confident for 2019. My only concern is Brexit. It’s still unclear how it is going to pan out, and we are working with our UK clients to see how best to manage the situation.
FNW: What is Sloggi’s share of the Triumph group’s revenue?
LM: Sloggi accounts for approximately one third [in 2018, the Triumph group recorded a revenue of CHF1.5 billion, equivalent to €1.3 billion].
FNW: In which direction do you think the lingerie market should move to return to growth?
LM: I come from the sport industry, one which I reckon is extremely dynamic. The lingerie industry isn’t so dynamic. There is a genuine opportunity for reinventing this sector, the way its business works, its products. In the lingerie market, all products are available from the start of the year. Why is it so? You need a merchandising flow, allowing for new items to be launched on a regular basis. If you concentrate all novelties in January, by June there’s nothing new on the market. This kind of change must take place on two levels. Brands must drive it, and distributors must be part of it too, by placing orders on a more regular basis.
Innovation is needed in other fields too. We want to make more of an impact with Sloggi’s visual merchandising across all retail channels, whether monobrand stores or shop-in-shops. Work also needs to be done on advertising relevance and digital tools. There are a great many areas in which this industry must transform and reinvent itself, becoming more aggressive. You need to look at it from a different perspective. The underwear sector isn't used to selling stories, it simply sells products. The sport industry is good at storytelling, perhaps the lingerie industry should emulate it, for its own benefit.
FNW: Which innovations are you planning for the years to come?
We took a very important decision for Sloggi. From 2023, there will be absolutely no underwire in Sloggi bras. This means that all the new models we will introduce will be using a different system. We have called this operation ‘#free23’. Underwiring was invented in the 1920s-30s. Thanks to new materials, modern technology and a new way of designing bras, we can do without underwires while still ensuring an ideal posture and maximum comfort.
Our second innovation is the Easy Sizing concept. Nowadays, to cover all size specifications, you need to feature 32 different sizes. We are going to simplify the range, to between 4 and 11 sizes. With the S, M and L sizes alone we cover 70% of our sales volume. Depending on the models, we added XS, XL and XXL to cover all possible sizes. Modern materials have such a degree of elasticity that bras can offer plenty of support and durability, while enabling us to drastically simplify sizing.
Our vocation is to be a brand of ‘intimate apparel’, with a complete range of underwear products; we remain very strong in the knickers and underpants segment, and we can tap the genuine expertise of the Triumph group, which has a 130-year experience in the field. When I arrived at Sloggi, 93% of our revenue was generated by knickers and underpants. We are currently at 70%, and by the end of 2019 it should be down to 60%. Our plan to arrive at a 50-50 split by 2022.
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