“At DUUO, we’re doing it all from square one.”
24 November, 2015
We spoke with the owners of the footwear firm Munich to learn more about their latest business venture, DUUO, a footwear company that is moving beyond sneakers.
This fall, you’ll find DUUO’s first collection in the display windows of 60 multi-brand shops in Spain and Andorra. The collection offers five shoe models for men and women in different colors, with warm and natural fabrics. The models will soon be available in 25 outlets in Belgium and the Netherlands thanks to a recent agreement, signed last October, between the new footwear company and one of Munich’s distributors in Benelux. “We have great contacts, and that means DUUO, which had no international presence up to now, can start to grow in countries like Japan, for example. Our network of international distributors is what makes this possible,” says Xavier Berneda, joint owner along with his brother David of the holding company Bern2Run which owns the renowned firm Munich and the new DUUO brand.
Why a new shoe company? Xavier Berneda jumps with the answer, “Because we’re going to have a great time, fun and profit!” Xavier explains the name DUUO is not a coincidence. It refers to two people, the Berneda brothers, who are restless, who want to do and make new things every day. “Clients don’t wait around. We have to innovate. We know there’s a niche market in women’s sneakers and we go for it,” he explains energetically and enthusiastically. We ask him how. He says that at the new firm nothing is set in stone, unlike Munich, which, according to the entrepreneur has, “DNA that is very clearly rooted in futsal… at DUUO, we’re doing it all from square one.”
Evolution of the market
Xavier Berneda points out that sneakers have “been growing in the double digits. It won’t continue like that. Looking forward, we have to find new opportunities.” Munich’s owner explains, “That doesn’t mean sneakers are on their way out. No. This is the best time in history. But we have to get ready for when growth stops. We have to anticipate what’s going to happen in the next five years.” Berneda shows us the numbers and stresses that sneakers will continue to reap very good rewards for the company. “This year we brought in 22% more than last,” he says. He uses the construction sector as an example to illustrate the importance of understanding that growth can stop at any point. “We need to be on our toes if that happens,” he surmises. The brothers’ answer to this eventuality is DUUO, which sold more than 9,000 pairs of shoes in its first campaign, and 10,000 in its second.
Berneda offers no conclusive response about the new brand’s designs. “It has to be different from Munich’s,” he says. “I asked DUUO’s designers to make sure they’re not physically similar to Munich. We’re taking a different direction,” explains Berneda. The brand’s general goal is to attain an exclusive position in footwear sales and artesian design. To get there, they can count on the 75 years’ experience of Munich, the family business that led to the creation of the Berneda brothers’ holding company. Munich, their most successful company, has years of history, and more importantly, successful experiences. Like Munich, the new DUUO also have soles made of vulcanized rubber, giving each pair a unique signature touch. “But I don’t know if I’ll make complete clothing collections. I don’t know if I’ll go beyond footwear and handbags. To move beyond, it’s really important to make sure the steps you’ve already taken have a solid foundation. That’s what we plan to do first. We’re going to be true to this and really stand firmly,” explains Berneda when asked about the possibility of making more DUUO products other than footwear.
The new brand’s audience has actually already been defined. It is men and women with medium-high purchasing power who prefer independent companies and market niches that are culturally involved. According to the company, concern for sustainability and ethics is the common denominator of DUUO’s potential clients. That’s why the company’s values revolve around these concerns, and the needs of a new consumer who is looking beyond the aesthetics of the product.
DUUO and the multi-brand shop
To explain why DUUO was created, Berneda also points to the role of the multi-brand shop. “We’re not copying Munich’s growth model. We want do to something different. We haven’t drawn up a business plan that has us opening 15 shops. Our approach is to have a dialog with the end client and to work closely with multi-brand clients. We’re thinking about a very select distribution as well as an online sales channel. We want to have a strong relationship with the end client. That’s why the name DUUO is no coincidence. We’re two people who want to converse.”
To make this conversation happen, they’re looking for clients wherever they can be found, explains the company’s founder. We want to have a very different relationship with our clients. For example, we’re going to the Palo Alto market because we know we can find this kind of client there. It’s where you have to go to find clients who value a brand like DUUO.”
Referring to multi-brand shops, Xavier Berneda underscored the difficulty of introducing a new firm into a portfolio of products. “With us, they want to try things out and they’re excited about it.” In a more general discussion of the roles of multi-brand establishments in the fashion sector, DUUO’s founder says they are crucial in transmitting first-hand information about client reactions to products. “We believe in multi-brand, of course we do,” exclaims Berneda. He explains that this especially refers to businesses that “know everything that moves in the market and can offer the best selection. They’re willing to reach a hand out for collaborative projects. They offer a display window to give the company some space, explain relationships with clients, and they put a lot of thought into what they’re offering. That’s what makes a good multi-brand a good multi-brand. Also, online shops can’t transmit touch or smell, but brick and mortar shops can,” he explains.
Xavier Berneda understands clearly that the future is in multi-channel, and while he’s working on getting traction in multi-brand shops, DUUO’s electronic shop will also play a key role in the positioning of the new firm. “There are fewer clients. We have to look for them everywhere. The brand has to be accessible online. The way you relate with clients is changing. Sure, we have display windows on the street and local shops and premium shops, but the online shop is very important,” he concludes.