Mainstream womenswear brand Bianca is back on track with a refocused offer and service-led distribution
It takes a humble brand to admit its wrongs and a commercially ambitious brand to rectify its mistakes. Bianca, once hailed as a frontrunner in fit-focused co-ordinated women’s fashion, has spent the past two years on a mission to re-engage with lapsed retailers, convince disillusioned shoppers and claw back market share.
“In 1999 the collection lost its focus,” admits international sales director Henrik Eppers. “It became too young, the fit wasn’t right and the quality was lacking. It didn’t help that during the same period lots of our staff and sales people changed.”
Having hit a sales high of €19 million (£17.8m at today’s conversion) in the UK and Republic of Ireland in the 1990s, by 2007 sales had plunged to €3m (£2.8m) following an ill-conceived younger reworking of the brand’s look.
Regrouping the company internally and switching back to the brand’s mission statement has not happened overnight, but Eppers believes Bianca has turned a corner.
“Our turnaround had to start with product and we have returned to the two things Bianca was always known for: quality and fit,” he says.
Alongside this, Eppers is confident the brand’s “partnership-led” distribution strategy will provide comfort to retailers entering an unpredictable trading climate.
“We’re partners and we take responsibility for our retailers, which means offering services such as stock swaps between stores, flexible payment plans, customer days and merchandising assistance,” says Eppers.
Improvements in internal communication and with customers has also helped, says Eppers. “All our internal correspondence is now in English rather than German. The impact of that alone has been massive.”
Export sales represent 80% of Bianca’s turnover, with the UK and RoI ranking third in sales behind Switzerland and Belgium but ahead of Scandinavia, Russia and Germany. The brand has 175 accounts in the UK and RoI with about 275 doors. Sales in the past 24 months have doubled from the €3m (£2.8m) low to €6m (£5.6m) in 2008.
When quizzed on the brand’s growth strategy, Eppers says: “In the current market I would be happy to retain the same amount of customers. Trade is very challenging and every day more customers are asking for help.”
As well as payment plans, Bianca has introduced an electronic data interchange system which is available free to all its stockists with or without PC access, as customers can also manually create and fax out sales sheets.
Data is analysed weekly in Germany; a fortnight on from the season’s first delivery, Bianca has an informed idea of how styles are performing across all its international stockists. This enables the brand to accurately swap stock between international customers.
“As a supplier we have to do whatever we can to help generate sell-through,” Eppers says. “It not only means better business for our customers but it also ensures that we get stronger forward orders.”
- Bianca 020 7580 0085