“The Multibrand Store Makes All the Sense in the World”
10 December, 2013
So says a person who has worked in fashion for over four decades, runs seven multibrand establishments and has seen the sector evolve from Barcelona, one of the world’s favourite cities for shopping tourism. We are talking with Joan Pavía, the second generation of the firm Felgar.
Pavía happily explains there are now three generations managing and promoting the company’s new projects. “I am very proud that my son also works at Felgar. Undertaking all of these projects with his collaboration makes me feel much better supported”.
When he speaks about ‘projects’ in plural, Pavía is referring to the fact that in recent years Felgar has pulled out all the stops to innovate and grow. The outcome is that there are now a total of seven commercial establishments, four of which opened during the crisis, and on this point he explains that, “for a shop, growing means increasing the points of sale. If we want to maintain the level of the brands we have, that’s the path
It took him two years to find the place where the company’s flagship store is located. The establishment at carrer Rosselló 224 in Barcelona opened recently and follows the closure of the company’s legendary store that stood on La Rambla for many years.
Felgar’s expansion policy follows the movements in the Catalan capital with regards the most important shopping hubs. That’s why recently opened points of sales include the shops in the Les Arenes mall, Maremàgnum and carrer Calvet.
Constantly on the move
More stores may soon be added to this list, “but not in 2013, we don’t have enough time,” Pavía says, with a smile that suggests he has lots of different projects in mind.
“We set ourselves a test every season and we have to do our homework well each day to aspire to open around 10 stores. If we don’t quite reach that number it won’t matter, but the ultimate aim is to do it very well,” he says, emphasising the word ‘well’.
The priority for 2014 will be to work on the company’s digital identity and particularly its positioning on social networks. “We have to boost our strategy in online spaces and we also plan to start an online store. We know that many customer decisions begin online so we have to be there”.
But Pavía does not believe the physical store can disappear as a consumer purchasing space. “Customers will always ask us how the clothes suit them. They will want to know what the fabric feels like against their skin. Those are the sorts of things they can only find out in-store, physically,” he says.
Liu Jo, Armani Jeans, Michael Kors, MaxMara, Pennyblack, Elisa Cavaletti and Aldomartins are just some of the labels Felgar works with. Its shop windows display the “most emblematic pieces from each of these fashion houses… we choose the pieces that are truest to them, the designs that show the values of each one. Here we have around fifty percent of the firms you can find on Passeig de Gràcia,” Pavía says.
Having a large part of your sales área dedicated to brands that customers can find just a few metres away is not a problem for the Felgar boss. Indeed, he says it can be an advantage. “Here, without having to go in and out of various boutiques, you can try on items from different fashion houses at the same time, compare them and make the final
decision on what you want. The multibrand store makes all the sense in the world, as we choose the labels that are the latest thing at the time. We look at the market, study the collections from each house and choose what we think will be worn each season. We adapt quickly: we’re a versatile shop and if the fashion is for high-glam we can offer it; if a more restrained look is in, we go for that. We have no problem with changing labels if we know that something else is fashionable right now,” he concludes.
How it all began
Speaking about changes, a look at the company’s history is proof of Felgar’s ability to adapt over the firm’s 70-plus year history. It all began with Felicitas Garcés. Now aged 92, she still advises Pavía, her son, on the company’s policies and the strategies to follow, having seen all of the changes that have taken place in the retail sector over the years. Garcés opened the first establishment, a men’s shirt store, together with her husband Pere Pavía. In a socio-political and economic context dogged by the havoc of war, the couple worked hard to make a success of their shared business project, with one in charge of the product and the other of management and marketing, and to build it into a shop with its own women’s collection. That was in 1963 and the name of the new project was taken from the first syllables of the founder’s name and surname, i.e., ‘Fel’ and ‘Gar’.
Faithful to its capacity for adaptation, the company continued with designs from collections to sell to the first major department stores that opened in Barcelona. When this strategy ceased to bear fruit, they didn’t hesitate to commit to the multibrand sale of prestigious Spanish and international firms which they chose in accordance with market
trends. This strategy has carried them through to the 21st century with the same strength and energy as when they set out. “We were pioneers in positioning the store in the high-end but affordable luxury segment, and then slowly began to move into the current market composition, which features low cost firms at one end and firms like the ones we have at Felgar at the other,” says Pavía.
Explorers of new labels
“When a label is well-known, it can be for either of two reasons: one, you have a lot of money to invest in promoting it; or two, you are featured in a leading multibrand establishment and slowly but surely start to connect with the public. For these labels, the role of the multibrand store is very important. That’s why I think we can make a great contribution to promoting firms and helping them forge a place on the market,” Pavía says, while also acknowledging he is aware of the commitment needed and the risk involved with choosing a new fashion label to offer customers.
Pavía is keen to continue to provide opportunities for emerging women’s fashion labels and is already thinking about a new trip, particularly “to Italy, where they continue to make great fashion,” he says – trips that will allow him to discover new talents and groundbreaking designs to fill Felgar store windows season after season.