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The Igualada-based company that distributes Gemma and Belcor seeks new sales channels

9 June, 2010

The company works with internationally renowned brands such as Belcor, Intima Cherry and Gemma.

VF Lingerie Europe, better known in Spain as Vives Vidal, Vivesa, is currently undergoing some changes in order to raise its profile in the lingerie and swimwear world, a sector feeling the pinch during the current economic crisis.

The firm started out in Igualada in 1949 as a small lingerie workshop. What originally began as a family-run business went from strength to strength as it acquired new brands and the group grew. In 1989 it acquired Lyon-based firm Gemma, followed by the Parisian company Bilytis a year later. In 1991 it took over JBE, a group established in Grenoble and Niort, with brands such as Carina and Lou. The biggest leap forwards, however, came some months after it joined United States group VF Corporation, which allowed it to market brands such as Lee, Wrangler, Riders, Vanity Fair, Maverick and Bestform, among others.

At that time the new brands available to this Catalan company were received by a market capable of absorbing them. “Everything we sold was snapped up”, explains Xavier Esteban, sales manager for Spain and Portugal. “Now, on the other hand, you have to be a lot more selective about what you offer. There are many more aspects to take into consideration that were not previously a priority, such as price”. In spite of everything, they are not overly worried about the threat from large chains, because “our product and our customers are very different”, he stresses.

Esteban explains that the lingerie business is complicated and extremely demanding, requiring value-added products, high quality garments and comfortable designs. “People look to our brands for well-finished garments, and in terms of quality that makes us stand out in comparison with other companies which are only able to compete on the basis of price. In the current climate, it is more important than ever to stand out and offer more”. In this context, the best-performing brands on the Catalan market are Belcor, Intima Cherry, Gemma and Majestic.

The company, founded by Josep Mª Vives Vidal, has had to integrate new consumer needs into an infrastructure, “which still has an industrial mentality and operates like a factory”, says Xavier Esteban. Now is the time to go further and become a distributor rather than just a manufacturer, with a retail and sales mindset. “We are market suppliers”, he explains.

Adapting to new times means harnessing the possibilities of new distribution models, which is why it is boosting its franchise network and own stores (with the Vanity Fair brand), and e-business. These new channels meet current consumer needs, and should compensate for the falling sales caused by the economic crisis, which have had such an impact on traditional channels.

Vivenza had a turnover of €83 million in 2009, a lower figure than the €92 million achieved the previous year. The company employs 1,000 workers, 230 of which are at its manufacturing plant in Tunisia. Over the months to come, many of the staff working at the firm’s head office in Igualada will be moving to new premises, the location of which has yet to be decided, although it is expected to be in Barcelona or the surrounding area.

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