You recently announced €455 million in annual sales, an increase of 8%. Annual growth for 2018 has thus turned out to be not as limited as expected?
Our guidance of November 2017 was indeed lower, but the last quarter of 2018 was particularly dynamic, driven notably by Coach fragrances’ excellent performance with growth of 66% for the full year.
The portfolio’s other strong brands also performed particularly well. While Montblanc registered a limited decline in a year without launches, Jimmy Choo and Lanvin marginally outperformed targets.
The other brands also contributed to this excellent overall performance, ending the year on or above budget.
These good performances have allowed us to remain on track by applying a strategy in place for a number of years to drive further gains in market share by increasing advertising investments, while maintaining a high level of operating profitability with a margin at around 14%.
In just four years, your sales have grown by more than 50%. How do you explain the success of your company year after year in achieving such results within a worldwide fragrance market characterized by limited growth?
We have of course benefited from the contributions of external growth. Out of the €455 million of this year’s sales, the combined contribution of the two brands added to our portfolio in 2015, Coach and Rochas, amounted to around €120 million, nearly a quarter of total sales. This result validates our strategy and reinforces our determination to carry out acquisitions if opportunities arise, particularly in light of our excellent financial position.
But of course this growth is largely organic, reflecting growing contributions of our brands through market share gains each year.
Specifically, what is the secret behind the success of these brands year after year within an increasingly competitive market?
Increasingly competitive and demanding… For a number of years we have seen an increasing demand to continuously enhance the level of desirability of our fragrances. Today, the purpose of a fragrance is no longer simply to diffuse a pleasant scent.
Just as a watch is more than a simple timepiece but in fact a fashion accessory symbolically conveying the time of day, a fragrance, like a jewel or a pair of pumps, is a genuine fashion accessory. It represents an uncompromising reflection of a brand universe and the DNA of a fashion house, jeweler or any brand seeking to translate the codes forming the basis of its notoriety and desirability into a fragrance.
And so it is true that satisfying these increasingly demanding criteria make our business evermore challenging. We must constantly strive to reinvent and imagine new approaches to inspire our customers, while remaining faithful to the brand’s core values and identity. I believe that one of my first responsibilities as CEO is setting, with our marketing teams, this artistic direction capable of creating among our customers the emotion and, in consequence, a purchasing impulse. It is then the task of our technical teams to carry out the difficult challenge of transforming these concepts into reality and giving them life. Such an exercise must always be carried out in a manner that respects the highest standards of excellence associated with the prestigious houses of our brand portfolio.
Is this a new phenomenon?
While not new, it has become increasingly vital. To be convinced, one needs simply to compare our creations to date with those of 20 years ago. More original, more sophisticated, more complex, more innovative and above all more luxurious. Excellence is today the key to our success. It is not enough to have the best juice in the world if the final product does not fully and entirely reflect these codes.
Is your company more competitive today in these areas than in the past?
Our growth performance of recent years gives us reasons to believe this to be so. The brands of our portfolio today consist of houses that will tolerate no compromise with respect to the quality and perfection of their creations. Brands recognized worldwide for their know-how, in most cases inimitable within their respective universes. Brands that we support by applying the same commitment to the highest standards for our fragrances… We are convinced that the major challenge for a company such as ours is promoting this sense of excellence and quest for perfection. This alone makes it possible for consumers to find in our fragrances the values and codes of their favorite brands.
A word in conclusion?
Today our company can draw upon expertise built up over a period of nearly 30 years within the selective perfume universe. Our teams have acquired a solid reputation of expertise in our profession and our brand portfolio is stronger than ever with considerable visibility provided by long term and lasting agreements. We are certain that our company is still at the very beginning of a wonderful adventure and we are confident about the future. Very confident…