Belgian entrepreneur Thomas Nouws wants to conquer the world with his unique retail concept, Jacob’s Conceptstore. His ambition is to open as many as eight new locations every month, in Belgium, the Netherlands and France (for a start).
Three years ago, Nouws launched his store concept, which accommodates creative local entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the chain already opened 24 branches in Belgium and it is time to shift up a gear. “I hired an architect to develop a completely unique corporate identity. We have already renovated and relocated some stores, with fixed 9-year leases. I want to get rid of the pop-up nature of the stores. We are professionalising and putting more emphasis on customer loyalty.” He will reveal more details about this at RetailDetail’s Retail Marketing Day, on 21 September.
Recent moves to bigger stores include Kortrijk, Mechelen and Waregem. Two other stores are to open soon. “Meanwhile, all branches are being renovated in the new house style, so the next few months will be spicy”, Nouws says. “I am driving from one construction site to another. If all goes well, we will open eight new locations every month from November, in Belgium as well as in the Netherlands and France.”
International ambition is high, and the first lease in Paris has already been signed: “We are moving into Beaugrenelle shopping centre. For shopping centres, Jacob’s Conceptstore is an interesting addition because we bring innovation and variety, with more experience, craft products…. We are a good match. We may open as early as mid-October.”
In a city like Paris, demand is particularly high: “There are an awful lot of creative people looking for an outlet. Renting premises is hugely expensive, but we can offer them a physical outlet. I could already open eight stores in Paris with the current number of candidate designers registered, I just need to find the premises.”
In total, the retailer is already working with 650 designers. Specific to Jacob’s Conceptstore is that those entrepreneurs all work in their store one day a month. That keeps costs down and it also increases the attractiveness of the shop concept, as customers and makers come into direct contact with each other.
The personal contact with the designers is one of the key success factors, according to Nouws: “You do not just rent a square metre with us, but we highlight the creatives on our social media. The day they work in our store, they can also post themselves.”
Moreover, Jacob’s Conceptstore really stands for fun shopping, the founder thinks: “People come to us to browse. They have a big wallet and they want to buy, even if they do not need anything. Every product here has a story: we have a nice panel with info, name and photo of each designer… so customers can see that the product is made with love and passion. They are local products and producers.”
Conquering the world
Nouws’s ultimate ambition is to conquer the world: “I want to have stores in every continent, and I am convinced I will succeed. When I prospect brands myself on Instagram, I look in cities all over the world to see if there are so many creative entrepreneurs there too. I already have a folder of designers from Sydney, for example, and I saw a few months ago in Bogota, Colombia, how expats’ wives are looking for an outlet for their creations. It is just the same there as in any metropolis in the world.”
The entrepreneur is inspired by Rituals: “I think that is a very good example. They have conquered the world – or are still in the process of doing so – by believing in their own concept. Well conceived, well executed. Not hesitating to take a leap.”
Thomas Nouws will tell more about his approach and ambitions at RetailDetail’s Retail Marketing Day, on 21 September in Antwerp. Speakers from Impermo, Lunch Garden, Kruidvat, Microsoft, Standaard Boekhandel and Club will also take to the stage that day with fascinating stories for retailers looking for marketing inspiration. Book your ticket quickly via the link below.