Groupe Bogart’s CEO, Nicolas Dewitte

Premium Beauty News - How does a group of perfume and cosmetics brands, like Bogart, ends up doing retail?

Nicolas Dewitte - The whole group’s strategy results from its history. The Bogart Group was founded in 1975 and quickly developed on the global stage. Year after year, the company grew by acquiring perfume brands, like Ted Lapidus and Balenciaga – we sold the latter to Kering 20 years later. Today, The Bogart Group counts four perfume brands (Jacques Bogart, Ted Lapidus, Carven, and Chevignon), two skincare brands (Méthode Jeanne Piaubert and Stendhal), and April, the multi-segment brand specialized in skincare, makeup, and bath products. We gradually developed the R&D part, and then purchased more and more perfume and cosmetics/makeup plants in France.

We have adopted a very integrated model, with our plants, laboratories, and R&D, so it was only natural to add retail. We aim to become a significant player in selective beauty.

Premium Beauty News - How is this distribution activity doing today?

Nicolas Dewitte - Fifteen years ago, The Bogart Group purchased 20 April stores in Israel, so we tested this manufacturer/retailer model at that period. Now, we have 42 April stores there, 32 stores in France, 87 points of sale in Germany, with the HC network, and since November 2018, we have reached 200 points of sale in Belgium, through the Planet Parfums and Di networks, which are very well-established in this country, in addition to six new perfume stores in Flanders, since May. Then, we have also just partnered for three years with the Printemps department store, starting with Metz, France. It is materialized by an April perfume corner offering the main selective brands on the market, including the group’s brands, so we benefit from a significant traffic to reach a broader range of customers.

Premium Beauty News - Are you considering making it the main activity of the group?

Nicolas Dewitte - Our positioning is that of a perfume and cosmetics manufacturer-retailer, but it is true that for the first time this year, with 370 perfume stores, our turnover in stores will have exceeded that of the “brand” activity. Overall, our turnover will reach about 300 million euros for the year 2019. We have managed to develop a model which works well in terms of profitability. It is an outstanding tool for us to develop the best products and brands, and best meet consumer expectations.

Premium Beauty News - It is a bold challenge within the current context in selective distribution. How can we explain these particular dynamics?

Nicolas Dewitte - We highlight the broadest offering possible, with our products, of course, but also with other groups’ brands. But what characterizes us most is that we are both a manufacturer and retailer, with the corresponding reactions that feed both activities. On the one hand, we listen to our customers’ needs to develop an adapted offering. With 370 perfume stores, we listen a lot, and what is incredible is that we receive information directly from five different countries about how trends and consumer needs change, and then we can send it to our marketing teams and laboratories. This system is very fulfilling.

On the other hand, the manufacturer’s reflex involves a strong expertise on the part of sales teams in perfume stores, with people who really understand what an olfactory concept is, for example, as well as certified beauty and wellness professionals. We endeavour to share the industrial know-how of our R&D laboratories down to our stores, so that our customers feel this particular listening skill at April perfume stores. We have a special quality in France, which we are not always aware of: we have highly specialized advisors. It is definitely in our interest to develop this French standard. It makes us stronger and more demanding in other countries.

The development of partnerships with prestigious brands is a strong area of development for the group (as can be seen with Hermès in Israel, for example). And we pay attention to any other proposal that might help develop our network, in particular in Europe.

Premium Beauty News - Is this how you view sales in French stores?

Nicolas Dewitte - We believe there must be a very strong bond between manufacturers and retailers. Our growth will depend on smart partnerships with real cosmetics experts working for brands to both have a broad, complete offering and target particular areas. For example, the latest Carven perfume, Dans Ma Bulle, reached the Top 5 in April perfume stores in several countries after a few months, alongside heavyweights, like La Vie Est Belle and J’Adore. It just shows that by showcasing a brand with very qualitative work, even if it is an alternative brand, we can do outstanding things with customers who love discovering a different way to create perfumes. Clearly, by developing a broader offering, we can reach a different range of customers. The main thing is to keep paying attention to customer expectations.

Premium Beauty News - How do you think things are going to evolve?

Nicolas Dewitte - Retail and e-commerce will merge. Everyone predicted the end of retail when e-commerce boomed, and yet although it is a huge rise, it will not actually replace retail. The real trend is that they will merge. E-commerce functions, like re-targeting, are better and better used in physical stores, and data transmission will also come from points of sale. Everyone thought data would come from the web, through significant traffic, but inside stores, there is already a lot of precious information about consumer needs and behaviour: it will complete a whole system. Retailers like April, who will adapt to these changes to serve their customers, have a role to play.

We aim to accelerate our e-commerce growth, so we just relaunched the website a month ago, in France.