The consumer sector must meet its new challenges

Caroline RémusWhat are the best ways to create value in a market that has become considerably more competitive? Who are the most advantageous partners, and which skills are most important to have for the future? Caroline Rémus, President of Apax Partners Development, offers answers to these questions.

Three ways to increase the chances for success

Today, the consumer & retail sector most often inspires hesitation and concern. “It is definitely more difficult nowadays to identify the winning models,” says Caroline. True, the market is constantly changing, and the way ahead is unclear, but there are both long-standing and emerging methods for creating value that attentive executives can use to find their way. The president of Apax Partners Development has identified at least three.

The first and most important is to make sure you offer customers a real product. “Don’t even think about succeeding in the current market if you don’t have the right product. Once you’ve got it, the company’s entire growth strategy must revolve around it.” Second, the brand must have strong DNA and a unique personality so that customers will feel at home in it. “To successfully create a sense of belonging, brands must have sufficient depth and they must have clout.”

The third way to create value is with an omni-channel presence that meets the challenge of managing store-to-web and web-to-store responsively, with a single inventory ensuring the right product is shipped to the right place.

How omni-channel am I today? How should I disseminate information about my brand and my products based on my various sales channels and my presence on social networks? These questions need specific answers. “The much-talked-about ‘customer experience’ has always existed, even if we didn’t speak about it in those terms. It has become even more critical now that growth does not automatically follow when you open new points of sale.” In-store customers don’t need access to the full product line, which they can find on the web, for example. They come into the store to experience the product and speak with salespeople. In other words, “the experience must be worth the trip. But not to worry, physical and human presence are still crucial, as demonstrated by pure players and other operators, who are realising it more and more,” Caroline adds. All these topics play a role in building value. At the same time, both the physical and virtual networks must be internationalising, and the brand must be gaining in awareness and recognition.

The Eric Bompard brand and product are both timeless

In the spring of 2018, Eric Bompard became one of Apax Partners’ emblematic Consumer companies, alongside Afflelou and Aigle. “Eric Bompard is a well-renowned brand. Everyone has a Bompard in their wardrobe or would like to have one! Over the last 30 years, the brand has become transgenerational in the minds of consumers,” Caroline explains. “Eric Bompard is the perfect combination of a very strong brand and remarkable know-how focused on a traditional material. Bompard does not sell the latest fashion; it is a specialist working with high-quality cashmere.” Add to this its network of company-owned stores and its burgeoning international recognition, with a dozen stores in various European cities. This is proof that the product and the brand have the necessary potential to attract customers outside France.

Apax Partners’ value added

It should be emphasised at the outset that it was Xavier Marie’s vision that convinced Eric Bompard. He was looking not only to sell the company he founded, but also to transmit its values. “Xavier Marie, the founder of Maisons du Monde, has a long-standing relationship with Apax Partners. Together, we intend to propel Eric Bompard into the international arena and onto the web to make it the leader in affordable luxury products,” Caroline explains. “We have already travelled the international and digital roads together with Maisons du Monde, which we supported,” she recalls. “Through a lucky coincidence, Eric Bompard also has the triptych of stores, e-commerce and catalogues that were a winning combination for Maisons du Monde. Our objective is to capitalise on these strengths by defining the most appropriate strategy in a consumer & retail market whose mechanisms are very different than they were a few years ago when Apax Partners first started working with Xavier Marie.” What a company builds can change very quickly, especially on the digital side. The power of digital and its characteristics have evolved considerably, and change is still accelerating.

Apax Partners is always ready to interact with CEOs

Apax Partners has internal expertise it can use to make the digital transformation of companies a strategic pillar of value creation. Its support for executives is both structured and personalised. “For Eric Bompard, as for every portfolio company, we performed specific due diligence, which led to the first draft of our digital business plan,” Caroline explains. “Once we made the investment, we refined that draft greatly and integrated it into the overall business plan.” A small task force was created, composed of the investment team, Apax Partners’ Chief Digital Officer in a supporting role, and the company’s CEO and CDO. This helped make digital transformation a success.

In the digital area, as in support in general, Apax Partners positions itself as a sparring partner, always ready to interact with CEOs. “Our expertise, our know-how, our networks and our teams are there to support and provide impetus.”

Caroline Rémus President of Apax Partners Development Contact informations

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Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.