European Business: Mr. Grenade, ba&sh was established in 2003 by Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief. How did the idea come about, and what have been the key factors in the company's incredible growth?
Pierre-Arnaud Grenade: The founders' idea was to create the perfect wardrobe for themselves and their friends. As business women and mothers, the clothes needed to be multifunctional, fast and simple and, of course, fashionable, to create a look that helps a woman feel comfortable, free and self-confident. Partnering with stylists, they created a high-quality, distinctive look. Initially, the company's clothes were distributed via wholesalers. In 2008, ba&sh created an internet presence, and in 2010, the company opened its first bricks-and-mortar shops. Today, ba&sh has 250 boutiques around the world, including 110 in France and 40 in the US, mostly our own stores with just a few franchisees. Over the past five years alone, we have increased our revenues four-and-a-half-fold, to 210 million EUR, and now employ 1,000 staff.
European Business: Can you describe the ba&sh portfolio.
Pierre-Arnaud Grenade: ba&sh is an emotional, authentic brand which lives its own values. Our customer is typically the active woman, often a mother, who is looking for fashion that can be customized with accessories and worn for any occasion. The brand's starter product - a dress in flowing materia suited every woman, irrespective of size or height. When I joined the company with the support of L Catterton, together with the founders we initiated four core strategies for growth and internationalization, one of which was the expansion of the portfolio, to reinforce our presence in other RTW categories; two years ago, we launched a shoe collection, and this year a range of handbags. Accessories now account for 15% of our turnover.
European Business: You mentioned four core growth strategies ...
Pierre-Arnaud Grenade: The second was internationalization. Until the end of 2016, ba&sh focused exclusively on Europe; in 2017, we began developing our American and Asian markets and today our boutiques in New York and China are particularly successful. The third axis is focused on digital and our online turnover will represent 25% of our sales in 2020 and 2021. Our website is now international, in various languages and currencies, and we have integrated social media, use influencers and, in 2018, we established a Direct Consumer department in New York and then Paris. The fourth axis, Branding – friendship, femininity, Parisian style, cohesion and, despite its luxury-segment placing, price accessibility, was communicated at home and abroad via social media and conventional campaigns.
European Business: How do you see the market right now?
Pierre-Arnaud Grenade: We are very well positioned in the accessible-luxury segment. Waves in this segment include men's fashion such as the American Polo brand and, in Europe, the look-alike trend. We are newcomers in the third wave, with our own style and authenticity, and clear identity and values, which help us stand out from the competition. We are benefiting both from customers who have upgraded from the mass market to higher value fashions, and those who used to buy top luxury brands and now believe they can find affordable yet unusual clothing in our market segment.
European Business: And finally, what plans does ba&sh have for the future?
Pierre-Arnaud Grenade: We are planning a major change in strategy in respect of environmental issues, and will not only work exclusively with certified suppliers, but will also implement a range of other initiatives related to packaging and the circular economy. Digitalization will offer further opportunities, for example in second-hand retail, which will enable us to establish contact with new customer groups, such as those who cannot yet afford our products, but are potential customers for the future. We are also optimizing our CRM to facilitate an even closer exchange with customers. The clothes rental market is another area of interest. All in all, we are convinced that ba&sh will continue to grow. We are in a strong ecosystem, have motivated and highly engaged teams, and a philosophy that suits today's customers.