Van de Velde ramps up digital focus to turn around falling sales

Global lingerie and swimwear group Van de Velde is putting the focus firmly on ecommerce in 2017 as it looks succeed in today’s fast-changing digital environment.

The Belgian company said it will invest in developing ecommerce and digital communication within its own Rigby & Peller stores and for independent retailers stocking its PrimaDonna, Andres Sarda and Marie Jo brands.

The news comes after Van de Velde witnessed its first fall in turnover in 19 years. Sales fell 1.1% to EUR206.6 million in the 52 weeks to December 31. Profit for the period fell 18% to EUR33.6 million.

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These results were attributed to a fall in the pound, disappointing retail results in the United States and the growth in ecommerce impacting shopping behaviour.

Van de Velde chairman Herman Van de Velde said the business will respond “nimbly” to advancing digitalisation in order to avoid “missing the digital train”.

“Industry-wide, online stores account for more than 10% of all purchases and their share is rising spectacularly year on year. Yet that is only the tip of the digital iceberg,” he said.

“A recent study of the luxury goods sector shows that three in every four purchases are influenced by what consumers read, hear or do online, regardless of whether they shop in the high street or on the internet. In other words, digital has become the engine of the shopping experience.

“We absolutely do not want to miss the digital train, but we will discuss any initiatives we do take with our customers and roll them out in partnership with them.”

In the meantime, some digital initiatives have already started.

“The ecommerce team will be strengthened and various initiatives will be rolled out to further improve digital services to consumers and retailers going forward.

A global structure was set up at Van de Velde in early 2016 to boost ecommerce growth within retail and wholesale.

The US ecommerce business was integrated into the global ecommerce platform to improve services to the United States, where a new online store went live on 1 September.

Since then, the United States has experienced the fastest growth within Van de Velde’s ecommerce business, driven by a richer product range and a better online user experience.

Meanwhile, more than 100 independent retailers in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have joined the wholesale ecommerce platform.

Van de Velde said digital consumer communication channels have also been improved, with greater investment in social media and mobile.

“We want to continue along the same path in 2017, developing ecommerce and digital communication within our own stores and for independent retailers,” the business said.

“The ecommerce team will be strengthened and various initiatives will be rolled out to further improve digital services to consumers and retailers going forward. Our ambition is to surpass the turnover growth we achieved in 2016.”

In the UK, a new management team at Rigby & Peller sped up a plan to turn around falling retail sales until the Brexit vote started to negatively impact results in the second half of the year.

“We saw positive stability in the United Kingdom stores, with the acceleration of ecommerce after the growth vision was fleshed out in mid 2016,” Van de Velde said in a statement.

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