John Berri: “We want to Grow the Brand and That Has to be Done Globally”
21 March, 2016
The firm John Berri, part of the Vidal Group, will have a new formalwear line starting this summer.
The Vidal Group spent five years working on a new menswear fashion firm. It used its multibrand stores to test designs which over the past few years have slowly been forming collections and lines with their own personality and the distinctive elements of a brand. The goal was to create it, but first it was important to see customers’ reactions to the new products. Some of the Badalona group’s 27 establishments were used as an ideas laboratory to hone the project. Once the product was delimited in terms of the design, brand values and attributes, and after several international fact-finding trips, the company decided it was time for John Berri to hit the market on its own. This was last November, with the opening of the first shop, a flagship store in downtown Barcelona, on Rambla de Catalunya. “John Berri has to become a global brand,” says product manager and fifth-generation member of the Vidal Group family fashion company, Aleix Vidal. “We anticipate opening another store in Barcelona and then expanding in Spain. The brand has been created to be international. It isn’t yet, but that’s because it doesn’t have enough retail outlets. We want to grow the brand and that has to be done globally,” the firm’s manager says.
More than a century of fashion
Barcelona is just the start, therefore, for a firm that can draw on the knowledge and expertise of a company with more than 100 years of history. The legacy of the Vidal Group has its roots in the store that Petronilla Casanovas opened in the centre of Badalona, an establishment which in the 19th century was devoted to selling hats and raincoats in a small city where fishing activity was central to the economy. The second generation of the family extended the range and began to sell ready-made clothing, an activity the company has continued with, uninterruptedly, through to the present. In 2014, the Vidal Group posted sales of €20,000,000 and currently has 200 staff in its own multibrand stores and brand franchises like Jack & Jones and DC Shoes.
Still in the centre of Badalona, but now on carrer del Mar, the Vidal Group has one of its most emblematic establishments, Selecta Vidal, and offices in the same building, in the heart of the city. This is where the John Berri team works, with Aleix Vidal at the head of design and brand concept. He says that right now they are focusing on “clinching the world and the John Berri space from Barcelona” and adds: “We want to polish little details that the customers might not appreciate but which are very important to us. We have to finish positioning the product and the idea we had with regards what customers need. Since opening the store, we’ve heard our customers’ opinions and seen our strengths and weaknesses. Now we are concentrating on making sure that the space conveys our brand one-hundred percent”.
John Berri believes that to drive sales it is necessary to put customer consultancy services at the heart of the shopping experience. To that end, both in the new store in Barcelona and at the forecast upcoming openings – one in Palma de Mallorca this year – personalised attention and customer focus define the space and services offered. “That has largely been lost with fast fashion. It’s true that customers have become accustomed to finding things themselves and they sometimes want to do so without feeling pressurised to make a purchasing decision. But when they need advice, our shop staff can help them decide what they want. They know the product and trends inside-out so they are coming to it from a better place. I would say that we are more about advising than selling,” Aleix Vidal says.
The John Berri goal and philosophy is to add “a human touch to the shopping experience”. As Vidal says: “We cannot afford to let that go. In our case, we try to personalise the sale, we want to win customer loyalty and for customers to develop a relationship with the salesperson that goes beyond just buying a piece of clothing. In our stores the assistants remember what the customer bought before and advise them on the grounds of that knowledge. Our experience as a group tells us that this is what they need”. This is the commitment that John Berri wants to make tangible in its stores. The Barcelona shop has its own workroom on the ground floor where garments are adjusted for free and where men’s measurements are taken for the brand’s suits.
“Starting this spring, customers will be able to buy mass-produced but custom-tailored suits. That means that they can choose the fabric and composition they like and we will make it for them. There are very few brands in the business that do this and we are distinguished by our prices: we are much more competitive”. John Berri offers business suits that can be adjusted starting from €149. This price rises in accordance with the chosen fabric and line. “Our intention is to provide maximum customer service so our customers can dress the way they want,” Vidal adds. The Barcelona store also has a ground-breaking laser machine to personalise garments with illustrations, names or phrases of the customer’s choice. This service is also free and responds to the growing trend for fashion customisation which is already being seen in certain subsectors such as trainers and jeans.
Seventy percent of the firm’s range is made in Europe. “We try to stay as close to home as possible. The industrial fabric in Europe is taking off again and we support local manufacturing. We believe in the country’s recovery and a good part of our European production is done here. We work with workshops in Igualada and Mataró, for example, where the production framework had been destroyed,” Aleix Vidal explains. The remaining 30% is made in Asia, but the John Berri manager says that “local production is important in order to be flexible” and that he has no doubt “it will become increasingly easier to make products locally”.
The firm that started working with two collections and different capsules to expand the product range, will have four collections a year starting from 2017. It plans to diversify its activewear and tailored lines to expand the range of option customers have and “to offer everything from basic designs to the most personalised and latest trends,” Alex Vidal explains.