Home: Issue 6 2010 › Supportive network
02/08/2010 | Channel:
While following its aspiration to become a high street lingerie brand, Hunkemöller is realigning its supply chain to the European regions
Operating as key subsidiary of the Maxeda BV group, Hunkemöller is the number one lingerie retailer in the Benelux regions of the Netherlands. With a history dating back to 1886, the company has established itself at the forefront of the fashion and lingerie industry with a comprehensive portfolio that also includes nightwear, swimwear and accessories. Following an aggressive growth strategy, the organisation has achieved unrivalled expansion in the past few years and now has franchises in Poland, Russia, Israel and Saudi Arabia. With 200 stores in the Netherlands, 110 stores in Germany and 250 stores across its other key regions, the company is well on its way to meeting its target of 650 stores worldwide within the next few years. As part of its vision to become a respected high street brand, Hunkemöller has also invested heavily in established lingerie experts who have played an essential part in the company’s attendance at the 2010 Amsterdam fashion week.
Philip Mountford, CEO of the company, outlines this latest development: “As part of our vision to offer our customers more in terms of product, design, service and packaging without compromising on price, we have welcomed a number of industry experts into our design teams over the past year. The buying and design director who joined us a year ago was head of lingerie at Marks and Spencer (M&S) and had experience in the lingerie departments at George and New Look as well. The new manager of the swimwear sector brought her knowledge from M&S and Boden, while our newest addition is the head of buying who has come from the second largest lingerie chain in the Netherlands. We have had an incredible swimwear season, which is significant considering we are a recognised bra specialist, and the changes these designers have brought to the company are already felt on the financial side of the business. The wealth of experience and understanding they have brought with them is vital to our progress in the fashion industry, while the huge number of quality suppliers and contacts we now have is proving to be essential for the enhancement of our supply chain.”
Indeed, perhaps the most notable change for the company since ESCM last made contact in November 2009 is its adjustment of supply chain from Far Eastern manufacturers to the European arena. Spurred partly by increasing freight costs and poor dollar rates, the difference between European short lead time manufacturers and long lead time manufacturers is diminishing, providing an opportunity for European countries to come to the fore. Where in the past five years many European manufacturers have been unable to compete due to huge increases in container charges, the dynamics are changing and Hunkemöller is in the perfect position to take advantage of the eight-week lead times of European suppliers over the 26-week lead times of those in the Far East.
Philip outlines how he endeavours to maintain the quality of his products: “We have 11 designers and our own quality control department in-house, ensuring that our products are always of the highest standards. The fact that our new managers have come from high-end, quality-conscious companies also has an impact on the quality of our portfolio, while our internal processes are of the utmost importance. Everything from our suppliers comes in gold seals so we go beyond simple sample checks and we also do spot checks in our warehouse looking at all aspects of the manufacturing process to guarantee consistency. All of our suppliers in the Far East are BCI certified and it has always been part of our company policy to only deal with manufacturers and suppliers that are completely registered to the best industry standards.”
The market, however, has had its challenges over the past two years and as a pan-European company Hunkemöller has had to cope with differing and unique issues within each of its seven areas of activity. Spain, for example, has had one of the biggest declines behind Greece and Portugal and the employment of a new country manager has been a key element of the company’s ability to combat the economic crisis. “We are already predicting a very strong financial 2010 and have opened 25 new stores this year alone. We are well on track for reaching our goal of 650 stores within the next five years and have actually been opening facilities where others have been closing them. As we start to grow in recognition as a brand that can make decisions quickly, is profitable and has a great new shop concept we are finding it easy to discover prominent city locations for our stores. Having significantly buoyed up our design team we hope to make the brand more fashionable and high street, akin to names such as Zara and Massimo Dutti while maintaining an affordable product,” Philip concludes.