“Tourists Make a Magic Receipt”
18 December, 2014
Dressing heads and necks is the proposal with which Ontop Barcelona has opened eight of its own retail outlets and five stores-within-a-store since 2011. The brand has also contributed to promoting the hat as a fashion item.
In 2011, veteran hat and headdress designer Núria Rius de Forns said “We’re starting to see more hats”. Her words rang with hope.
That was also the year which Ontop Barcelona, a fashion firm dedicated to headwear, was established. Rius de Forns and Marta Martínez, the company’s founder, agree with the diagnosis that society is beginning to gear up to “dress their heads” once more.
“I saw in cities like Hong Kong that headwear was a very important part of fashion and I asked myself why the same wasn’t happening here. I saw there was a market opportunity back in 2011,” Martínez explains.
Combining intuition and her knowledge of the fashion sector, she set up the company. “I think that headwear fashion came to a halt with the generation of the 1970s, my generation. But now that has changed. Young people are coming back into the fray and choosing headwear designs as part of their style,” she says.
She is convinced that Ontop Barcelona has played a part in recovering the trend. Her company, born in the midst of the financial crisis, has eight of its own retail outlets and five stores-within-a-store in different shopping centres around Spain. A quick and very determined growth which has also been accompanied by openings on international markets. “We operate in Malta, Cyprus and Honduras. They all have an extensive culture in relation to headwear accessories. Just a month ago we opened franchises in Colombia and Guatemala”.
When Martínez is asked which aspect is presently causing her the most concern regarding running a company as young as hers, she is quick to answer. “Getting onto international markets. There aren’t any new openings right now”.
This businesswoman, who was previously an executive with the Catalan firm Mango for five years, has no doubt that taking the firm global is of utmost importance for its future. “I want to see our stores abroad up and running. Right now, although there is a certain degree of movement in domestic consumption, the Ontop Barcelona product is particularly appreciated by tourists. They ‘make a magic receipt’, by which I mean they account for the highest average spends. They don’t find it hard to understand that quality, special products have a price”.
While tourists spend an average of €170 in one of the firm’s stores, a local customer spends €30. “The price war in the fashion sector in Spain is full-on. We Spaniards find it hard to grasp that a design which is gorgeous and well-made has a price. As a company, I neither can nor want to compete in the low-price strategy”.
Producing at home
The products of this company founded in Catalonia are made in Mataró, Igualada and Valencia. Some of the process is also performed in France and only a small portion of the range comes from India. “Yes, we could produce in China, but we wouldn’t have the proximity we need to provide an immediate response to product stocks. Also I wouldn’t get the quality that I need today. We make a product with an objective quality that can be clearly seen”.
For the quality and the prices of Ontop Barcelona’s products, mainly headdresses and hats, but also hairpins, clips and diadems, Martínez puts her customers in the medium to medium-high category.
Targeting this segment, in the first year it was up and running the company posted turnover of €1.3 million, a figure explained on the basis of a launch strategy in the form of pop-up stores in emblematic spaces in Barcelona, the first of which was Passeig de Gràcia.
One of the firm’s consultants, Christian Meyer, played an active role in designing this initial promotion campaign. For years he was the head of the expansion and retail area at Desigual, the company created by his brother, Thomas Meyer.
Along with a further two partners, Christian Meyer is a co-founder of Ontop Barcelona. He, like the other investors, got behind Marta Martínez’s initiative from the start. “The person it was probably hardest to convince was my husband,” she jokes, referring to another of the partners.
Dreaming and enterprising
In 2011, Martínez was keen to make a change in her life. “I decided to undertake this project then, because I was sure there was a gap in the market that wasn’t being met,” she says.
Life led Martínez into enterprise after holding positions of responsibility at both Mango, where she selected and decided on the designs to form part of the collections, and Levi Strauss. “At the end of the day, life takes you down mysterious paths. I had an idea and I knew that nobody was working on it and three friends believed in me. Now I am going after my dream,” she says with conviction.
Marta Martínez’s proposal also includes the creation of a retail concept that classifies as innovative and which is based, she says, “on exquisite treatment with retail outlets where the customer feels very much at home”.
Her words contain a similar dose of conviction and passion when she refers to the Ontop stores. “Everything around you is very chic, fresh and contemporary. They are spaces where you have a good time. Our motto is ‘you never know what sort of customer will walk in the door’. That’s why all customers are important and we treat them all the same. The end goal is for them to have a good time and see themselves as beautiful. If they don’t buy anything, it doesn’t matter; they’ll be back. If we have managed to make them smile, they will remember us”.
Marta Martínez’s present lies in managing all of the areas of the company. But she knows that what adds value is product design. “My strong points are my abilities as a salesperson which I also know how to apply to the product at the same time. I’m not a designer; I need someone to sketch whatever I create, but I do know how to apply the elements to a product that will give it market appeal. When Ontop grows up more I will focus on design and products and hand the general management over to someone else,” she says, sharing her future plans.