Essentiel halves sales network

Retailer Essentiel's store in Antwerp (Belgium)
Photo: Essentiel

Belgian fashion brand Essentiel is halving its pool of sales partners: the network will be slimmed down to 69 multi-brand boutiques in Belgium and 550 points of sale abroad. The corona pandemic was a turning point - and a learning point.


Two slices

Instead of 120 Belgian stores, Essentiel's clothing will soon be available at only 69 locations. Internationally, the number of sales partners is decreasing from 800 to 550. As a result of the corona crisis, the Antwerp fashion brand has changed the way it works, and says it can only implement these changes in the strongest partnerships


To save costs, next year's summer collection will mainly be delivered in two phases: a first part will be delivered to the stores in January and February, and a second instalment will follow a month later. That way, both production and stocks can be paid in two instalments, instead of all at once. From now on, the second delivery will also take place via 'more cost-friendly' (but slower) transport, in particular by train or boat.


“Image, location and payment”

Essentiel had been toying with the idea for some time , but was afraid to implement it, CEO Inge Onsea explains to Belgian newspaper De Standaard. The Covid crisis made it a must, rather than a nice-to-have: "We want to forge deeper partnerships with the stores that remain. I can assist fifty stores with the changes we are making, but not 120".


The survivors were selected on the basis of criteria such as image, location and payment options. By working with fewer sales partners, the fashion label wants to boost its image and become more exclusive again. Wholesale currently accounts for 30 % of the turnover in Belgium, but the brand's own stores and webshop will now gain in weight. Onsea also says she finally "sees the light at the end of the tunnel". "The first battle of the war has been fought", she is hopeful.


'Pink pill' for 2021?

Purchasing next year's summer collection already brings the CEO headaches: due to the tight cash position of many fashion companies and traders, but also the persistent uncertainty about the corona virus, the sector seems to be ordering new clothing in a more limited and risk-avoiding way this year.


While local branch organisation Mode Unie expects a slightly more cautious and braver purchasing strategy, Onsea argues for "lots of colours and crazy pieces". "If people buy something now, it can be something special. The basic pieces are already in their closet. In these gloomy times we need just such a pink pill".