FEATURE: Naturana celebrates 100 years in lingerie

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Naturana will mark its 100th anniversary this year with special events both in Germany and the UK, but positive changes to the business in recent years have given the brand even more reasons to celebrate.

This summer, lingerie and swimwear brand Naturana will raise a glass in celebration of its centenary year.

At its head quarters in Germany, the founding Dölker family and their associates will open a heritage museum charting 100 years of lingerie-making history.

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Meanwhile in the UK, the company will mark the occasion by hosting a special customer liaison open day at its new offices in Sutton Coldfield. Key account customers will gather there for a big brand presentation and celebratory bubbles.

But Naturana’s heritage isn’t the only cause for celebration this year; the brand is also keen to toast what looks to be an exciting year ahead after hiring a new CEO to drive the business forward.

Andreas Höfchele came on board in May and thanks to him and his team, the group has invested heavily in growing the business, in the UK in particular.

Speaking of Höfchele’s appointment, Naturana UK sales and marketing director Tom Kavanagh said: “He joined the company with clear objectives – to lead the group towards the future in structure and direction – and he’s been a breath of fresh air.

“He is supporting me in all the things that I’m trying to do. In fact, the support I have been given from Germany and the Dölker family in particular has been absolutely phenomenal. I can’t thank them enough.”

When Lingerie Insight met with Naturana UK last year, the team had relocated to modern offices after working in Lichfield since 1963, built a purpose-built showroom for collection presentations, updated its campaign imagery and launched a new ecommerce website.

But that was only stage one of a five-year plan. Since then, Kavanagh has taken big steps to improve customer service, with the help of further investment from Germany.

A vintage shot from the Naturana archive.

A vintage shot from the Naturana archive.

Sales restructure

Firstly, he’s restructured the sales team, hiring new internal account managers and disbanding Naturana’s sales agencies.

“I’ve employed three territory account managers with salaries, cars, laptops, phones and they are 100% employed to work for Naturana,” says Kavanagh. “The sales agents did a great job and I thank them for all their hard work, but we need to move forward with an employed sales structure dedicated to selling Naturana.”

Tanya Bulloch has joined the company as key account manager, after previously working as a sales and marketing associate at Bravado Designs and the key account manager at Lorna Drew.

Naturana UK’s new territory account managers are Chelsea Vickers, who previously worked as a business development executive at Curvy Kate, and former sales agent Richard Potter.

Vickers will look after customers in the Midlands and the South, while Potter will work on the road in Scotland and the North.

Stephen Duncan will continue to manage the key account business in Ireland.

UK sales and marketing director Tom Kavanagh.

UK sales and marketing director Tom Kavanagh.

Current accounts

As well as negotiating orders with new accounts, Naturana UK is busy building its relationships with current customers.

The company has recently implemented a new telesales department headed up by new recruit Laura Moore.

“Laura joined us last year and she’s helping to offer a much better service to our customers,” explains Kavanagh.

“We’re moving from being reactive to being proactive in respect to the service that we offer our customers.

“I think this is important and I can’t believe we’ve not had it before in the UK – it will drive business.”

Naturana has also invested heavily in new merchandising units – free-standing and boxed – as well as hanging banners and promotional giveaways, which are being drip-fed into stores now.

“Our visibility in store is a key focus for us in 2017. Our sales guys will provide a series of in-store window promotions in their territories,” says Kavanagh. “Stephen has already signed off five with the Shaws department stores in Ireland.”

Naturana’s new showroom, which opened in February 2016, has allowed the brand to showcase its entire collection, from core essentials to fashion ranges from Cybele and Eva, to new and potential customers.

“We’ve held a lot of open days for retail chains and their staff have attended. It’s been absolutely fantastic,” says Kavanagh.

“Boundary Mill sent about 15 members of staff to visit our showroom. I did a brand presentation, we showed them products and we did some bra fitting training.”

Kavanagh admits that many of Naturana’s key accounts prefer to visit the brand at its showroom than see it at
industry trade shows.

“It has benefitted us having a showroom only 15 minutes away from the NEC. What I tend to do is pick certain key customers up after they’ve spent the day at the show. You have to seal the opportunity.”

A body from Naturana's latest collection.

A body from Naturana’s latest collection.

Business growth

Changes to the business are already paying off for Naturana UK. In September, the brand expanded its relationship with fashion retailer M&Co with a seven-store roll-out.

A selection of the lingerie brand’s best-selling styles are now stocked at stores in Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Aberdeen, Dunbarton and West Sussex.

The brand launched online at Mandco.com last February after a successful three-month trial in November 2015.
The business has grown 22% over the last four years, with a small – but respectful, given its recent investments – 2% growth in 2016.

“In 2016, there was a minimum growth of 2% but that was because of our restructure, and our relocation in particular,” explains Kavanagh.

“It took us four to five months to get us established and up-and-running at the new office, in terms of IT and logistics. Our distribution was moved back to Germany when we moved to Sutton Coldfield and it was a bit of a nightmare for about five months,” he admits.

Growth has largely been driven by swimwear in recent months, thanks to new designer Annette Renz.

“We’ve had significant growth with our swimwear and we’re looking for more opportunities with our collections. For example, M&Co trialled swimwear last year and they couldn’t get enough of it. It has been such a success with them in particular,” says Kavanagh.

The collection is absolutely fantastic and Annette’s first collection, which launched in SS16, has practically sold out. We’re really excited about seeing our SS18 collection.”

Naturana’s younger fashion range, Cybele, will also be a key focus for the UK branch going forward.

“I have two fantastic account managers working on this now who I think can really make the difference.”

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