Although they started out as a men’s luxury swimwear brand, Vilebrequin is increasingly viewed as a high-fashion house. This is not only the result of the quality of their collections, but also thanks to their presence in both physical and digital channels.
Vilebrequin is best known as a high-end swimwear brand for fathers and sons. Has this market positioning changed?
It’s still the case today, even if we’ve taken the concept further. Vilebrequin was founded in 1971 in St. Tropez and was originally a men’s swimwear brand. Twenty years ago, we added boys. Logically, we’ve continued these past few seasons with the launch of collections for mothers and daughters. This has been so successful that today we receive selfies on Facebook and Instagram from fans of the brand, where everyone’s wearing the same bathing suit: same fabric, same pattern, but of course, with the style fitting their gender and age. To continue our growth, we’ve also gone into ready-to-wear and accessories. Our products are very beachwear-oriented and go from linen shirts to pants and sweaters, shorts and sleeveless vests. Considerable work on the product, it’s quality, design and the originality of our prints makes our pieces unique. The best example is the polo shirt. We’ve never sold as much as we have this year. Fit, sizing, fabric – everything was re-examined. Our clients are particularly attached to the two eyelets on the back of our shirts. It’s sort of our signature.
The ready-to-wear collection is rapidly growing, thanks to our innovations, and particularly in Asia, where its sales are on par with our bathing suits. In Europe and the US, we’ve remained, above all, a signature swimwear brand. Today, our challenge is to make ourselves known for the rest of our styles.
Besides product diversification, what are your other growth priorities?
Digital, to start. Our goals are ambitious, both for our ecommerce site and our boutiques.
Our ecommerce receives orders from more than 100 countries! In terms of sales, Europe has even overtaken the US. We’ve doubled our online sales each year for the past three years and it may continue at this rate for another two to three years. Six months ago, to speed up the pace, we decided to adopt a mobile-first strategy, since 60% of our site visits come from mobile devices. In addition to this major technical development, we’ve made many other adjustments. Each time, the goal is to increase sales. For example, the launch of the second version of our site in March 2017 resulted in a doubling of sales by shoppers connecting via a mobile device! This is simply because the site is now more user-friendly and the overall experience is improved.
We also try to offer more services to our customers. Amazon has been a bit of a model for us. For example, we allow customers to purchase multiple items that will be sent to different locations, all in the same transaction. If they’d like, they can also send one or several items in gift boxes with a personalized message.
You also mentioned digitizing stores. What progress have you made?
In our stores, sales associates need to have access to digital tools to offer omnichannel services and streamline the buying journey. We’re still in a test phase in Europe, but we’ve already equipped six of our stores in four countries with tablets (France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain). With these devices, the sales team has access to all customer data we’ve collected, both online and offline. They can also be used to show customers our entire collection, something we’re not able to do in all our stores. The tablets also serve as additional checkouts in rushes and, most importantly, allow associates to order articles not available in the store, ensuring we don’t lose a sale. The associate makes the order and it’s fulfilled from our warehouse. The customer then receives the product at home or can pick it up at the store. Next year, we’re launching a new service: ship from store. This will allow us to collect an item ordered online from a store’s inventory. The customer will be able to pick their order up in-store or have it delivered. We also plan to add an “ultra-fast delivery” option that will guarantee delivery within two hours by courier. It’s Yourcegid Retail’s three modules, Shopping, Clienteling, and Cataloging that will allow us to offer these services to our customers.
By digitizing our stores, our goal is, of course, to increase our productivity, but our objective is also to give Vilebrequin a contemporary image. We’ve already done this with our collections and now need to update the in-store tools our sales associates use to serve shoppers.