The mysterious insouciance at the heart of French style is difficult to pin down.
And yet, global fashion group SMCP have built an empire around it.
SMCP’s three brands — Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot — allow consumers worldwide to inject a dose of the coveted “French chic” aesthetic into their wardrobes. But the group’s continued success can’t be chalked up to design strength alone: it also comes down to a smart retail strategy.
Ahead, a look at the growth of SMCP, and how they’re using digital to surge ahead in the retail race.
How SMCP took “French chic” global
All three of SMCP’s brands operate in the “accessible luxury” space. Their emphasis is on quality and French design at an affordable price point. Further blurring the boundaries between luxury and fast fashion, their supply chain practices more closely mirror those of retailers like H&M, with a short and responsive cycle from design to production.
The group grew organically, starting with the creation of Sandro in 1984 by designer Evelyne Chetrite, followed by the birth of Maje in 1998 under the direction of Chetrite’s sister Judith Milgrom. In 2009, with the acquisition of already-established label Claudie Pierlot, the SMCP group was formed.
As of 2011 the group began to push its global expansion, opening stores in the US, Hong Kong and China. By 2015 the brands had collectively reached 1,000 points of sale worldwide. They now have a presence in 38 countries.
Even in the face of economic downturns, SMCP group has thrived. In 2017 all three brands outperformed the market with double-digit growth. An IPO in October 2017 raised €541 million, which is helping to fuel the group’s continuing overseas expansion — especially into the already warm and welcoming Chinese market.
How SMCP are embracing digital
In order to stay relevant with new generations of consumers, SMCP had to embrace digital across all three brands. They’ve successfully done this in several ways.
A strong social media presence
Each of SMCP’s brands has a strong social media presence, but the group is careful to cultivate a unique style for each. That way they can appeal to a slightly different target audience for each brand, while still giving cross-over customers a reason to follow all three. The Instagram account of Claudie Pierlot reflects the brand’s timeless and nostalgic spirit, incorporating inspirational quotes and images of vintage style icons; Sandro’s, meanwhile, is clean with a modern twist. Maje, the flirtatious younger sister of the three, curates imagery that echoes the brand’s slightly raw and bohemian aesthetic.
Working with influencers is a key part of SMCP’s digital success, but they do so strategically. SMCP’s brands are less likely to repost from influencers than to collaborate with them in a direct and controlled way.
Take this campaign to promote Maje’s fall 2017 collection as an example: Maje collaborated with four select influencers who embody the brand’s style and appeal to its primary demographic. As any social media-savvy brand knows, finding the right influencers is key — though it’s not necessarily easy. Maje tend to wisely prioritize user engagement over sheer follower volume. And since each influencer in this campaign was from a different country, they were also able to tap into four different geographic markets.
Driving sales through e-commerce
In January 2016, SMCP’s digital sales reached 10%. In the following year the group registered a 46% increase in online retail, reaching a total of 12% of all sales in 2017. This explosive growth in e-commerce reinforces the strength of their digital strategy.
Part of the success comes down to social media. The SMCP brands use social media platforms to engage with customers and build brand awareness, but they also use them as a tool to drive online sales. All three brands include e-commerce links heavily in Facebook and Twitter posts. Both Maje and Claudie Pierlot drive sales through Instagram using one-click e-commerce integration.
Bridging the gap between in-store and online
Having strong year-on-year sales growth both in-store and online, the next logical step for SMCP is to use technology to bridge the gap between the two. With the launch of a Maje in-store app in January this year, it’s apparent that SMCP group understands the importance of an omnichannel approach to retail. The app — which has already been introduced into 60 retail locations across France, the US and the UK — aims to improve the shopping experience by making ordering easier and giving retail staff mobile access to customer information. If an item is out of stock the app allows an inventory check of both nearby stores and online, and can be used to quickly arrange a delivery direct to the customer’s home.
Customers can also interact directly with content via the app while in store. “Through the app, the customer is taken on a journey where they can draw inspiration from branded content such as lookbooks and fashion trends,” Maje’s Digital and CRM Director Beatrice Goasglas said in a release. “This, coupled with the store associate’s enhanced product knowledge, provides a more personalized shopping experience so the associate can better recommend and curate a collection specific to her lifestyle.”
With fashion brands battling for the millennial audience, keeping abreast of technological trends is more important than ever. SMCP is proving this by example. The group’s willingness to embrace digital and move with the times has played a huge role in its success story — and will continue to do so for as long as all three brands keep a finger planted on the digital pulse.