“We will attack new countries as a pure player”

By Clotilde Chenevoy | The | E-commerce

Although Christophe Gaigneux, Managing Director, announces a slight drop in Damart’s results, this in no way diminishes its expansion ambitions as the brand’s transformation plan is bearing fruit.

Christophe Gaigneux took over the management of Damart in 2019. – © DR

How is Damart?

Damart reached a turnover of 428 million euros, 50% of which generated by France, a slight decrease of 2.8%. These results are explained because we had a reversal. In 2021, we had very strong growth and in 2022, the market will slow down. We are doing better than the market, but the performance in the second half is not at the expected level. The war in Ukraine, inflation or rising energy costs are all creating tension. The trend for online sales is also around -20 to 25%. However, we are still growing compared to the pre-covid period, while the market is shrinking.

You also suffered a cyber attack in August. How did you handle the situation?

In fact, we experienced a cyberattack on August 15th, but luckily we deployed a new security patch in May 2022. The attack suffered by Camaïeu led us to look internally at our organization. So, we immediately knew there was an intrusion. A crisis unit was set up in record time, with reinforcements from outside experts, and we switched to offline mode. This attack still forced us to close 15 days with a week of technical unemployment for teams, but we had no data leaks. The team reacted very well and we learned a lot in 3 weeks. We must be very attentive to these matters. We will also continue to invest in this area. For example, we are changing all user workstations to add dual authentication.

On the product side, you have a busy back-to-school season with a winter capsule collection branded Ron Ron by Agathe Caron, and a new range, Classic Riders, dedicated to motorcyclists. What are the challenges of these novelties?

Collaborations fuel teams and energize the brand. We don’t want collaborations that only represent a communication lever. We talked to designers about thermolactyl, whether with Agathe Caron or Le Slip Français, with whom we also have a collaboration. These exchanges prove that Damart has managed to reinvent itself and turn fashion around.

Also, regarding Classic Riders, we already had riders who were customers, but we chose to build an offer for them. This is part of our strategy to move towards very technical textiles that we now offer for various uses, such as the Climatic line that produces a fresh effect and has been successful for two years, or even with different audiences such as the family, athletes or cyclists.

From December 28, Damart will offer a ski collection co-created with the Ron ron brand by Agathe Lecaron.  - © Damart
From December 28, Damart will offer a ski collection co-created with the Ron ron brand by Agathe Lecaron. – © Damart

You mention Damart’s style change. When was this exchange made?

A transformation plan was launched, Reinventing Damart 2025, to modernize the image and style of the brand and also reinvent our model, more digital and more responsible. Damart was previously organized with 3 countries, 3 collections and 3 organization models. In 2018, the group decided that the company needed to be transformed. I arrived in 2019 to give this project a boost as general manager of Damart. A common council was created between the three countries to choose common tools. Work was carried out to unify and rationalize the offer for all. We worked with the Peclers company to define the products we wanted, without abandoning our historic products that some of our customers have come to expect.

Damart’s reinvention also involves sustainable fashion. We have 30% eco-responsible products for the 22/23 collection, against 2% in 2020. The index rises to 70% in the underwear category, with thermolactyl. The goal is to reach 100% by 2030. Our engineers in Roubaix have been working with recycled fiber since 2019. The added challenge is that customers are not willing to pay more for an ecologically responsible product, but it is one of their expectations.

Regarding your back office, how much have you invested in transforming your tools?

We invested 15 million euros in the modernization of our information system. All web platforms were re-internalized with in-house management and development. Revamping distance selling to moving to an e-commerce site is complex. We need to simplify ordering procedures and also unify our inventories and our data. It’s a job that never ends, especially since every season we have more than 3,000 new references. In addition to the tools, all procedures were changed with the establishment of true internal partnerships between countries and departments. The teams also reviewed every touchpoint a consumer has with Damart.

Damart has reformulated its collections with Peclers to have more fashion and responsible products.  - © Damart
Damart has reformulated its collections with Peclers to have more fashion and responsible products. – © Damart

How is your distribution organized?

We have 150 stores in Europe, including 93 in France, which represent 40% of our sales. Distance sales, by phone and catalog, weigh so much, while online sales represent 20% of the value. All three channels create traffic even as we continue to shift from paper to digital. We are also developing our presence in wholesale and on marketplaces like La Redoute and soon Zalando. This last channel is very interesting because it’s just incremental for us. It also allows us to rejuvenate the brand and attract new customers to our traditional channels. And on the logistics side, this drives us to improve our procedures. Soon we will be attacking new countries in pure player, starting with Germany. And we will test markets in Belgium and Switzerland.

Do you intend to open new stores?

We still have the potential to develop our network, mainly because retail is performing well. But real estate is complicated. We are currently focusing on modernizing existing points of sale in France and Belgium with refurbishment.

On the other hand, we have a real theme about modernizing the customer experience. Stores must become omnichannel showcases, as there is only a sample of our offer on the shelves. Over the next two years, we will work on this issue generating significant capex. Efforts will also focus on how we welcome our customers. The goal is to reach 50 NPS points and we are not far from that.

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