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Mail order the French way

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Financière Trésor du Patrimoine and the subsidiaries under its roof were mainly founded at a time when mail ordering was still the order of the day in contrast to the normal brick-and mortar stores on the city’s high street. The company was initially set up under the name of Trésor du Patrimoine in 1990, specialising in objects of art, historical artefacts as well as jewellery and coins which it sold exclusively through its mail order catalogues.

“I founded the company in 1990,” points out CEO Derek Smith. “The company gradually evolved and was complemented by a book range, including a number of book editions.” In 2007, the brand ‘L’Homme Moderne’ was acquired, which focused on mail ordering and internet sales.

As in subsequent years, the brand took over a competitor with eight brick-and-mortar stores which supplemented the sales structure. One of the latest additions was the Pierre Clarence brand which produces men’s shirts and outerwear.

Simultaneously, Financière Trésor du Patrimoine entered a new market segment when it introduced direct selling of food and wine in 2009. “As we can rely on a vast assortment with many loyal customers, we decided to distribute special food products via specific brands. As a consequence, we developed three food brands and one wine brand,” points out Mr. Smith.

Today, Derek Smith is at the head of various subsidiaries that are all involved in mail order and Internet sales with a vast product range. “We are the driving force within our market, and the figures are really amazing,” stresses Mr. Smith. “Generally speaking, we cover three main segments, ranging from art and historical objects, food and wine as well as clothing and everyday gadgets. With these business areas we generate an annual turnover of 220 million EUR. The brand ‘L’Homme Moderne’ dispatches some 1.5 million parcels every year, generating turnover of 110 million EUR, while the ‘Trésor du Patrimoine’ brand itself has turnover of 40 million EUR. This demonstrates the impact our group of companies has on the French mail order and internet business.”

Financière Trésor du Patrimoine sees its primary role in finding and sourcing new products. For its clothing brands, it even employs its own designers and has established its own production, including a China-based subsidiary that produces exclusively for the holding’s brands.

“We offer clothing, leather goods, gadgets and electronics as well as food and collectors’ items. The range resembles a vast general store. When it comes to food products, we have developed the ‘Léon Fargues’ brand, which specializes in foie gras and regional delicacies. The customer finds honey and confectionery under the ‘Nicole Bernard’ brand while ‘Traditions du Périgord’ offers specialities from the Périgord region,” says Mr. Smith.

In the wine market, the company has developed into one of the leading wine merchants, selling about seven million bottles of wine annually. “Here, we have created personalized brands like Chevalier or Smith, amongst others, as well as two of our own brands. About 50% of our target group is aged 60 years and older, while the other 50% are between 40 to 60 years of age, forming the middle of the age pyramid,” points out Mr. Smith. “Today, we have a database of five million customer addresses. This is hugely valuable and provides us with a number of synergies from a loyal customer base. Even though we operate eight stores, they account for only 2% of our turnover. The majority of products are sold via our catalogues and websites.”

At the moment, Financière Trésor du Patrimoine and its group of companies respectively are only active in France, but export could turn into an option for the future. “I do not want to continue along that path on my own but I would rather target internationalization with the right partners abroad. We have the know-how and competence, but it requires a respectable partner with the same background. Apart from books or coins, most of our products like food or everyday gadgets can be exported easily,” stresses Mr. Smith.

A strong focus is always on emerging marketing opportunities and new developments. Despite soaring online sales, mail ordering is still going strong. “Catalogues still have a right to exist. Every year, we print about 35 million catalogues, some of which are quite small and are distributed as supplements in newspapers and magazines,” explains Mr. Smith. “Our customers still very much appreciate the catalogue and love browsing through it. This is one reason why the catalogue in paper form will remain a core element of our corporate policy.”

For every taste, there is the right catalogue with an interesting range of products to choose from. Even after 30 years in the business, the catalogues of the group of companies have not lost their fascination to the customer. There is always something he will love and want to order.

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