Presentatie John van der Ent, CEO Etam Groep

Presentatie John van der Ent, CEO Etam Groep

John van der Ent - Etam GroepOp What’s Going on in (R)etailing?! 2014 sprak John van der Ent, CEO van de ETAM Groep. Hij sprak daar over: Is there a secret of EtamGroep’s success in this changing retail market? A glimpse into Etam Groep’s Omni channel and E-commerce strategy.



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Goedemiddag, u had natuurlijk Lee Towers verwacht, maar ik ben er maar. Lisa en Joy dank je wel, wat zie jij er prachtig uit in onze laatste Promiss outfit en jij in onze laatste Miss Etam outfit. Vanaf morgen zijn ze te koop, dank jullie wel.

Wat een kans is dit om te vertellen over een van de grootste geheimen en de biggest secrets of the Netherland in retail, but also a big chance to have this song ‘when you walk through a storm you never walk alone’, the Feyenoord song in the ArenA and that’s a great start for me.

In the big retail revolution, the second revolution I think we’re in after Mr. Albert Heijn started supermarkets in the Netherlands, we are in this and we talk about total retail and omni channel and what are we going to do, are we getting afraid of what’s going to happen in the high streets. I think there are solutions and especially, and that’s what’s my title about, back to the future. If you have strong heritage in your brands and you believe in your brands and your work on that, there’s a great future.

This is our company, it’s Etam Groep, it’s in Zoetermeer near The Hague. We have our head office and our distribution centre altogether and we are very proud of that, that’s one of the most modern distribution centres in fashion in the Netherlands, may be in Europe. Even people from Zara are coming over to us to look at it. We are able to have our trucks, when they’re on the docks, with all our clothing in 20 hours in 230 stores, that’s what we call fast fashion.

What I am going to talk about is a small introduction of the Etam Groep, after that about identity and innovation. Not only omni channel, no it’s identity and innovation. I think that’s the yin and the yang of successful long staying companies. As the Etam Groep is already 90 years old, we are here to stay and if you have this yin and yang, this identity and innovation together, you have to tell your story and then you talk about the branding.

I challenge my people, because I started 1,5 year ago at the Etam Groep, that we are go into this revolution. For over 1,5 years we were talking about this omni channel and what’s it going to do with our company. That is going to change and that we needed new people, because it’s not only about stores any more. This constant change and this understanding what’s going on has to be in the veins of your company. If people start understanding that, then the big wheel is starting to run. That why I challenge my people to come up with the first slide of my presentation, because I wanted to know if they really understood what this omni channel is all about. This is the winner: do you believe your brand is in the lead nowadays. Think again. It’s the customer who tells you what she wants, what she likes to wear, where and when she wants to buy or get in contact with you, on which device and which platform at that moment of the day that suits her best. It’s your challenge to engage them with your brand. I think it’s on the spot. Mariska where are you? Well done.

This is what it’s all about. It’s the customer in the centre of our environment, the centre of every day doing our business and it’s not just listen to our customer any more, it’s to engage to your customer and have your staff also engaged to this customer. The Etam Groep, it’s Etablissement Meyer, it started in 1916 and I come back to that. We have two brands: Miss Etam and Promiss over 1.2 million visitors every week and the Etam Groep is the market leader in the Netherlands in lady’s fashion by far. We are covered all over the Netherlands and we have Promiss and Miss Etam and what we are saying is that the stores where people live, there’s an average of 20 minutes driving to our stores. That is our target.

Miss Etam 120 stores in the big high streets of the Netherlands. Our staff is also our most important customer and they can tell really what is in our collection nowadays.

Promiss started in 1990 and that is a little bit more upscale, a little bit more in neat wearing and what we say it’s the Mediterranean look for Dutch customers.

In the Etam Groep I can say and I think I have one of the greatest jobs in the Netherlands, we really love women, not only our customers but also our people. We have more than 2.500 people working for us. I think 95% are women and that is what’s it all about. They know really what they want, engaged to your staff, engaged to your customer. When I started 1,5 years ago there were a lot of ladies working, except for the top. Around 24 managers, mostly men were running the business and that’s what we changed. Now I have a small team of 6 people out of 4 women and they run the business. I am sorry gentlemen, but I think ladies are more into retail.

So different, all kinds of customers and really get into our customers. Size 42, it’s the average size in the Netherlands, but look at all these customers. They’re all different and really get to this difference and get to know your customers, that’s what it’s all about and that’s the success, because real women are fat and thin and both and neither and otherwise, but it means that you have to get to know them individually and that’s the success. We are not here for one size, we are not here for one length, we are not here because you are only thin. We are there for all the women in the Netherlands and we are there for the women in the Netherlands who think they are comfortable of course with Miss Etam and Promiss.

That they feel comfortable, that has been shown already for many times. Five times in a row the winner of the best fashion retail chain, but also winners of fashion awards and so on.

What after 90 years makes us still successful, because that’s what it’s all about, we are here to stay. We don’t want to be de Gruyter who said when Albert Heijn started his first supermarket: ‘people are never going to believe in this self service’. We learned all about it, Albert Heijn is still here and Mr. De Gruyter, the biggest grocer in the Netherlands is gone.

I read this book of Andy Mosman: ‘successful entrepreneurs’. How entrepreneurs in organisations can create their own future and that what it’s all about: create your own future. I’m going to tell you a bit more later on that. There are 3 kinds of companies according to the book: legendaries that make things happen, laggards that see things happen and losers that wonder what happens. Think about that, think about your company. But the long term successful companies and I’m not saying that we are very successful at the moment, but we are successful, they change continuously without changing fundamentally.

There’s a ritual dance as I said before between identity and innovation. Stick to your identity, the customer feels comfortable with that. Don’t go into changes every time, because the customer gets confused, but innovate in your sector, in your branch and with your products. We call it the yin and yang of corporate success, identity and innovation and if you have this identity and innovation in balance, then you start storytelling. Then branding comes, because keep on telling about your beautiful brand.

First of all it’s identity and I told you it started all on the 19th of April 1924, almost 91 years ago. There was a German, mr. Lindemann, who had panty factories and he had a hard franchise concept to sell that in different countries and he was looking for partners. That’s how Etam came into the Netherlands, Etablissement Meyer. It came in the Netherlands and the family who is still owning the company, the family of Korijn, they started with that. It started with panties and after that it became young fashion and after that a little bit older fashion and then it became omni channel, but it sticked to their course.

This is Julius Korijn, he started it almost 91 years ago. As a businessman he said: ‘let’s start and listen really to the customers what they need’. What they need are stores where we sell panties. Important panties from Tsjechia, they were the best, they were strong and you could work on that, but also started a little bit with young fashion.

This engagement between our customers and our staff, a very strong hold in our company, this is one of the advertisements of our early stages. We are asking for ladies who could iron and then we said: we bring music and you have a coffee break and even you have 2 weeks holiday and 3 extra days. Very much engaged between the customer and our staff.

The second generation came and that was Mr. Eduard Korijn. On the 75th anniversary of the Etam Groep there was a small video and I’ll show you some important lines: ‘we’re still back to the heritage of the company’. Nothing changed. Just buy what the customers wants, not what you’re producing. Think and talk with them, really think and talk with them and this was 15 years ago and nothing changed. Of course we’re going now into more technique and omni channel and everything, but stay to your core, that’s what we think.

About innovation, achieving the total retail. We call it omni channel or multi channel, but I think it’s total retail. It’s changing, we started at the market, then we had our stores and now we’re also having devices where people can buy, but very important will stay our stores and the consumer expectations driving the next retail business model: total retail.

’23 we started with the small stores and in 2017 it’s our goal to be a total retail player in the Netherlands. What we are going to do to that and why we are successful, we just try. We have entrepreneurial drive in our company, because it’s already owned by the family for 90 years and this entrepreneurial drive you have to bring into your company, you have to try, of course with a vision, but if it’s right of left or straight, you’ll find out, but try and try and try and bring in those good people. What we call: we want to build this ecosystem into total retail with e-mail, website, blog, Facebook, app, content, customer service, in store or on devices are all one ecosystem and where the customer gets never disappointed. Whether it’s in our stores where we started, just started with tablets, where you can order when goods are out of stock. Remember, just a tip, 2% sales increase by bringing in this tablet. It’s a free advice, but bring in those devices as soon as possible.

Also these big screens where we have interesting new fashion and attracting people all the time. Keep on trying and keep on measuring.

Also on our websites, 300.000 newsletters every week which are going out and people are responding on that.

But the biggest and most interesting secret of the Etam Groep is: ask Etam. We have 12.000 customers, we call it ambassadors, we call it our most important advisors where we can ask every question, whether it’s on colour, whether it’s on size, whether it’s on fit. 12.000 ladies who are really fond of being in that team and really give this advice about the next stage of fashion.

Facebook only started last September and now all over 104.000 likes. If you do it, get the right people in and focus and bring it there. I learned from Libelle the magazine that it took them 3 years to come over 100.000 likes and that’s the biggest ladies magazine in the Netherlands.

Then growing fast on e-commerce. We started in 2010 with our website, after first learning with our still very important alliance Wehkamp. There we started in 2008, but in 2010 we started with the website of Miss Etam and in 2011 with the website of Promiss. We were very proud that GFK told us that the Etam Groep is the fastest growing fashion retailer of 2013 in the Netherlands. That’s not because we had the books ready how to do it, but we just did it, brought people in and really invested in it. Don’t wait, as retailers we were sometimes a little bit hesitant to act, but please act, because we are moving ahead and we have to keep on the speed of the next total retail players.

Also the thuiswinkel awards has been one and it keeps on a lot of prices, a lot of festivity, but keep your feet on the floor, because the lessons learnt were these. Customer’s first thinking was, is and stays crucial. But on the other side empowerment of all employees towards total retail and omni channel. When I started 25 years ago as a trainee at Vroom & Dreesman, there were stores and you had to have location, location, location. Now there’s so much going on I don’t know it, but bring in the good people and trust them and empower them and make sure that they are able to make mistakes, but only once please.

These are the lessons learnt and of course the biggest challenge where we’re all in: how to change the business while securing a healthy cash flow, because that’s the pressure we are all in and that’s why we should work together as retailers, but also with the landlords and also with the banks, with everybody, with all the stakeholders, we have to come to the next stage of total retail.

Then branding, if you have this yin and yang together, identity and innovation and you feel strong about these building blocks, then you can start telling the story. Then you can build your brand and then you can think about what the next stage of your brand will be. Promiss I tell you next time, but we’re very proud to present you what started today, the new branding of Etam Groep, because we think there can be no dispute as to the power and impact of branding, also for our retailers. When we are in tough times, most of the time we cut on our budget, are the branding and the marketing cost, but if you want to be a total retail player, people have to think about your brand. They have to be in the mind set and that’s why branding is so important. A brand isn’t just a slogan or logo, it’s about the total customer experience. That’s why we are very proud that we are in the most indispensable Dutch fashion brand and you see, these are all brands from all over the world, but already for a long time here in the Netherlands.

It’s about giving a light to your brand, be different, try to bring the emotion in and what we said strong brands work. Sterke merken werken. Don’t forget that please.

Before I end, it’s an honour to show the next stage where we go into Miss Etam with our pay off: ‘Mooi jezelf zijn’, every lady in the Netherlands looking great, be yourself. It’s an honour to show you the mood film as we call it, which will be presented on TV starting last night already, so some people have seen it, but of them probably not.

I’m sorry guys again, I told you already about my favourite persons in retail, but as you see now it’s a woman’s world. Thank you very much, it was an honour.

Gentlemen, the man who has 2500 women, wouldn’t we love to be in his shoes. There’s another reason why I want to be in your shoes, you also have ladies running the business, so what are you doing?

Just giving presentations, travelling around, that’s what they are also asking.

You said quite some interesting things, but a couple of things that I would like to come back to. You said: bring in the right people for the innovation. What are the right people, where do you get them from and how do you keep them, because the digital wizards, they don’t want to work for a company that exists for more than 90 years.

As long as you don’t know the secret, as you know it people start asking: ‘can I work for you’, but about the right people, that’s a little bit difficult word I used, I understand, we because when we had stores, we had the right people, but the difficult thing is to shifting this company and then you have to say good bye to good people who were very good in that offline retail. You have to bring in the right people and you have to search them, you have to go to schooling, you have to go to universities and you have to really start looking, also change your mind. May I ask one question: who has an e-commerce director in his highest level in the board? You see that’s a fucking shame. I really mean it, if omni channel, if total retail is that important for our next stage, for our next phase we are going in and you don’t have that in your highest level, please think again. Luckily we have one in our board and it’s a woman.

Again building on that, how do you make those people stay with you, because that’s something I hear, if you bring in those folks who are really good at digital, you rather would work for Wehkamp or, just like is not in the offices of Albert Heijn, because that would be too boring.

That’s why I am there. They all like to work for me. That’s what you saw by these ladies who were ironing: really think if your staff engaged them, really empowered them and also when they are working for you, bring them into courses. It’s not only payment, but give them the freedom, the liberty to work, it’s not a 9 – 5 job, you can come on Saturdays, you can work on Sundays, especially work with all those ladies. It doesn’t matter please do the job and if you have that feeling, people feel comfortable. Not many people are leaving Etam Groep.

One final one, those 2500 people working on the shop floor, we always experience resistance to change. They’re concerned what will the webshop do to them, they may not always be technology savvy. What steps have you taken to get them on board. Did you use pilots, was it extensive training programs, how do you get that culture change?

Very extensive training programs. We also had master classes into total retail, omni channel. Kitty Koelemeijer, who is also one of the speakers here today, we brought that in, not only to our head office staff, but also to our store staff and one of the most important things: we changed into our sales organisation. We had what we call 60 communities where we run these 230 stores and in these 60 communities the community manager is not only responsible for offline sales, but also for the postal area online sales and then it’s not a threat any more, but it’s a gain and if you bring that together, then you go to total retail.

It also means the KPI’s are changing the traditional floor productivity.


What will the foot print of Etam Groep look like. Will you have the same number of stores, will you see different formats of stores appearing, can you share something with us?

That’s a good question we are in at the moment. We had huge stores out of the nineties, 800-900 m². That’s big for fashion retail. I think it will be between 300 and 500 m², but we also come up with stores of 50 or 100 m². It’s on the traffic areas, where the traffic is you want to be. That goes for click and collect and everything, but that’s also trial and error.

I think this is a very clear and very open presentation.

I have one more question: can you sing Hand in hand?

I’m obliged to do everything in English today, so I’m afraid I cannot any Dutch songs.

Thank you very much.

Thank you very much yourself. John van der Ent ladies and gentlemen.

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