After cementing its international credentials, Danish brand house Bestseller now plans to beef up its presence in the UK under the watchful eye of country manager Allan Nielsen.
With more than 3,000 retail doors worldwide and over 12,000 wholesale accounts across the globe, Danish brand house Bestseller has become a considerable force on the international fashion scene.
Founded in 1975, the family-owned business now produces 12 commercial labels across menswear, womenswear, kidswear and accessories. It distributes to about 38 territories, including Scandinavia, France, Italy and Canada, and is particularly solid in China with over 1,600 stores.
It posted profits of €266.6 million (£204.4m) before tax for the financial year to July 31, 2007, on net sales of €1.48 billion (£1.13bn).
Despite its sizeable international footprint, the creator of womenswear label Vero Moda and men’s denim brand Jack & Jones has a relatively small presence in the UK and Ireland compared with other countries.
In the UK and Ireland it has 28 of its own-brand stores and 52 franchises, alongside more than 300 wholesale accounts in the UK and another 200 in Ireland across all brands. However, after boosting its UK turnover by 50% for the past financial year by deepening its presence in existing wholesale accounts, it plans to build on this success in the coming year.
The figure at the helm of this push is Bestseller country manager for the UK and Ireland Allan Nielsen. He explains that the primary focus of the drive will be to continue to grow the size of existing accounts rather than opening store after store. He wants Bestseller’s brands to be the best profit maker for its customers.
“To do this we need to keep the passion for what we are doing with our brands,” he says. “Every day, we need to work out how we can do things a bit better and how we can make the product a bit nicer and with more detail. It is vital for us to go step by step with our wholesale customers.
“It is important to give them attention and service that they don’t expect, and you can’t do that if you have hundreds and hundreds of customers,” he explains. “But don’t get me wrong – we are, of course, a commercial brand and we believe in commerciality.”
Bestseller first entered the UK in 1999, wholesaling Jack & Jones, with women’s young fashion label Vila following two years later. However, Nielsen says the company marks 2004 and 2005 as its official debut in the UK, when it opened stores and franchises for Jack & Jones, brought in women’s denim label Only, accessories brand Pieces and introduced Vero Moda.
“That’s when we would call it a Bestseller office, so that is why we still consider the UK a new market for Bestseller,” he says. Ireland is a more established market for the company, where it has had a strong presence for 11 years.
A major part of Bestseller’s UK growth is the introduction of new brands from autumn 08. Kidswear brand Name It (formerly Exit) is particularly successful in Ireland and this prompted its official launch in the UK this year. Also new to the UK for autumn 08 is rebranded menswear label Selected Homme (formerly Selected) and its new womenswear arm Selected Femme. These collections have a commercial, trend-led style and are priced slightly higher than the stable’s other brands.
“The headline is still value for money, no matter what we do, but they [Selected Homme and Femme] offer more attention to detail and a good price for the value of the garments,” says Nielsen. “We also launched a menswear brand called Premium, which comes under the Jack & Jones umbrella. It has three different lines under the same brand: a sports brand, a casual line and jeans-wear for waist sizes 30 and up, whereas Jack and Jones is more of a younger brand.”
Bestseller’s mixed-outlet presence in the UK and Ireland, including own stores, franchises, independent wholesale accounts and department stores, is a deliberate strategy. “We think it is a good thing that we can see our brand alongside other good brands,” Nielsen explains. “I believe it is good for our profile – we can stand alone and we can compete against other good brands in UK and Ireland.”
Andy Scott, founder and buying director of branded young fashion chain Bank, has been dealing with Bestseller for the past two years. Scott buys Jack & Jones, Vero Moda, Only and Vila for the retailer and says it wasBestseller’s product offering that initially attracted him to the group, which he describes as fast moving and fresh.
“The lead times are generally shorter than forward order and it has an express collection of on-trend fashion pieces that can go from order to our warehouse in seven to ten days,” he explains. He adds that Jack & Jones is working particularly well in-store, partly due to a denim replenishment system. “One of the things I like about dealing with Bestseller is that it has great, accessible people who are always quick to resolve problems and find solutions,” says Scott.
Nadia Mounti, company director of three-store womenswear indie Leila in north London, says Bestseller’s short-order offering has changed the way her company trades. “The main thing that attracted me to Bestseller is the price points, the short-order aspect and the continuous flow of fresh styles,” she says. “This gives us the freedom to constantly give the shop a fresh look.”
Mounti stocks Vila, Vero Moda, Only and Pieces in her three stores and says the collections fulfil her need for trend-aware styles, giving her the opportunity to compete with the high street. “We rely hugely on repeat custom and the short-order system means we can regularly offer customers different options, so there is something new for them to look at when they pop in,” she adds.
Striving for perfection
While Bestseller’s production and distribution cycle may impress, Nielsen says it could be even better. “We can always improve our logistics and tighten the times from supplier to Bestseller, and then how things are handled from Denmark to local countries. Every day will count,” he says. Currently fast-fashion items such as T-shirts and sweat tops can go from design to the shop floor within four to five weeks, while heavier items like outerwear have longer lead times.
“With Jack and Jones, Only and Vero Moda, we have a supplier programme where we choose the best-selling basics and we have them in our warehouse so we can supply them week to week,” he says. “It is about replenishing and keeping the retailer’s cash flow steady. Then if a customer asks for a size 32/32, for example, they can order from us and have it shortly after.”
Garments are produced by suppliers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Nielsen says many relationships with suppliers extend back to the company’s launch more than 30 years ago. “The suppliers get to know how we work and the identity of the brands. You can’t go from one supplier to another every year if you want to keep the identity, so that is very important for us,” he explains.
As well as regular suppliers, the company also has buying offices in countries including China, Turkey, India and Italy.
With such large production orders, awareness of factory conditions and environmental impact is becoming increasingly important for the company. In 2002 Bestseller introduced a code of conduct in accordance with standards set by workers’ rights body International Labour Organisation, which outlines expectations regarding the age and working conditions of staff in its suppliers’ factories.
“Of course we can never be 100% sure – there are so many factories and suppliers,” says Nielsen. “But it is important for us to train our factories and suppliers, to outline our criteria and goals, so they can control themselves [to meet our expectations].”
In 2007 Bestseller also helped to establish the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative, similar to the UK Ethical Trading Initiative, which aims to promote better working conditions for international factory staff. “We are a big company – we need to take steps every day to do things better,” says Nielsen. “Right now we are working on projects that will give us a deeper insight into the environmental impact of our entire production. We will make more environmental guidelines based on this.”
Bestseller prefers word of mouth and a PR-based marketing approach as opposed to grand advertising campaigns. It has signed Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bn for its spring 08 Vero Moda promotional material, but Nielsen says the company tends to shy away from excessive advertising spend.
“Who is going to pay for that marketing in the end? The customer,” he says. “The end consumer can see what is value for money. That is probably the biggest headline for all our brands – value for money, attention to detail and that customers don’t pay too much for the garments.”
Allan Nielsen CV
2006Becomes country manager for Bestseller UK and Ireland, overseeing all brands
2004 Bestseller’s Jack & Jones fascia launches in Canada
2002 After starting out in various retail and fashion buying roles, becomes Bestseller sales manager for UK and Ireland, based in Denmark