Noténom – The Success of a Multibrand with a “Spirit”
26 April, 2016
Noténom has been offering Barcelona a “simple, modern” lifestyle for the past two decades.
“Noténom has a spirit. Lots of people tell us that. We have a highly personal selection, collections that are sought deliberately and the pieces we want to have,” says Esther Verdú, the founding partner, along with Juan Salvadó, of Noténom. We catch up with Verdú for a talk that goes beyond the establishments she runs to delve into the less visible factors involved in ensuring the success of a multibrand store. The Noténom partners have two retail outlets in the city, one on carrer Pau Claris and the other in Barcelona’s Born neighbourhood. They also opened the shoe store Odd Barcelona, located opposite the firm’s first store, in 2007.
Their business model has survived not only the years of the financial downturn we are just leaving behind us “quite successfully” but also the explosion of online shopping. Forty-four percent of the Internet population now buys things online and around 65% of these people buy fashion items, according to figures from IAB Spain, meaning that local multibrand shops have to work hard to stand out. “Luckily I work at the shop. When I purchase clothes for the store, I think about my customers, who are people I know. My personality can be felt every each piece in-store,” Verdú says. She has been working in the sector for as long as the firm has been running, having started there when it opened, and is convinced that the selection is the key to success. “People don’t have time to visit 10 or 15 single-brand stores. They have very little free time and don’t want to spend it trawling from shop to shop. We make the selection for them,” she explains.
Esther Verdú says that multibrand stores are “essential”. She doesn’t pretend that times aren’t tough and says the years of the economic crisis were especially hard. At Noténom the customers, mainly locals, allowed her to continue with the multibrand store project. The difference between before and during the crisis, in terms of shopping habits, was the number of pieces each customer bought. “If people used to buy three items beforehand, during the crisis they only bought one. But they did buy and they did continue to come in. That’s what allowed us to survive,” Verdú says proudly, pointing out that European fashion tourists are also starting to return to the store. “We are seeing a rise in the number of visits by foreign tourists and it looks like sales are growing again,” she says.
The secret to making a selection
Applying a filter to the collections of major labels like Comme des Garçons, Dsquared2, Filippa K, Mihara Yasuhiro and Neil Barrett is no easy task. Experience helps a lot, but you also need discipline and to have studied the latest trends, the movement of designers from one firm to another and the new necessities being imposed on the market. “A label can have a collection of 300 pieces. We will reduce it to 30. Our customers know that they’re getting the 30 best pieces from the collection,” Verdú says. How do they make the selection? She explains that an important part of the choice is related to the fact that the shop assistants, the people in the most direct contact with customers, always accompany her on her shopping trips. “When I go to Paris, Milan or Madrid to see the exhibition rooms, I bring the sales assistants with me. They all know right from the start how to choose a piece and the ones that will be the best fit. Once the selection reaches the store, the staff are familiar with it because they saw it six months before. That makes it much easier to sell”.
Noténom selects multibrand fashion thinking about the male and female public of Barcelona. “I don’t buy things I don’t like. Pieces I wouldn’t initially buy, I may end up getting later because I know they will appeal to my customers’ personalities”. For Verdú, local tastes are determined by the word ‘comfort’. “To give you just one example, the high-heeled shoes we sell in Barcelona are nothing like the ones sold in the south of Spain or in Madrid. They’re much more casual”.
Lawyers, architects and graphic designs make up the bulk of the store’s public. A group of customers with medium to high purchasing power which increasingly includes residents from other countries who have moved to Barcelona. “We don’t make our living from tourism but rather locals, although people from abroad help us by allowing us to offer a more unusual mix. These are people from London, Paris and Milan; they let me offer more colours and more out-there designs. They make the city more colourful!”
The neighbourhoods the customers live in are not a good way to judge the Noténom clientele. “They come from very different parts of town”. Neither is age a homogenous factor among the Noténom customer base. If they have anything in common it is their profession. “They are creative people, with very few prejudices and who love fashion. They are very demanding in terms of the products they buy and with us”. That’s also why Verdú stresses that when they assemble the Noténom collections, they buy designer wear but also quality goods.
Esther Verdú acknowledges that she likes to take risks with the collections and that the customers trust her judgment. “Fashion customers take a bit of a risk if they let someone they trust make the choice. When a customer has doubts and I encourage her to combine a piece with a specific outfit, she does it. That’s possible thanks to trust”. However, to build bonds with customers it is essential to have a low staff turnover like Noténom does. Both Verdú and the rest of the team remember customers who first entered the store twenty years ago. “I started working here when I was 23 and I’m now almost 45. I’ve had customers who have become mothers and gone through all sorts of different stages. Now even their daughters come in.” Thanks to trust, the fashion at Noténom becomes a support process throughout the different periods of a person’s life and the physical changes they undergo.
How it all began
Noténom’s roots date back to 1997 when Juan Salvadó, who had worked with large Italian fashion firms in Milan for many years, decided to open a new store in the city. “He felt that Barcelona needed something like Noténom and suggested I come on board, firstly as a shop assistant and later as joint partner,” says Esther Verdú, happy to be at the head of a multibrand store that has been around for two decades, making it a wonderful rarity in the sector. Now Verdú says that she wants to start enjoying herself after many years of hard work and following the crisis which, it seems, is now behind us.