Drapers speaks to Brian Grevy as he takes up his new role as CEO of Stockholm-based lifestyle brand Gant, to find out his plans and priorities for the future of the business.
Having held the role of chief marketing officer at lifestyle retailer Gant since 2016, Brian Grevy stepped up to the role of CEO in June, following the departure of Patrik Nilsson, who had held the position for four years.
Before joining the business, Grevy worked at Adidas for 10 years, leaving his role as general manager of the sportswear giant’s “training” division to take up his CMO role with Gant.
Gant was founded in 1949 in New Haven, Connecticut, and is now owned by owed by the Swiss family enterprise Maus Frères – most of its business is based in Europe. It has more than 270 UK stockists, including John Lewis, Fenwick and House of Fraser – and more than 600 own-brand stores in 70 countries, 22 of which are in the UK.
For the year ending 31 December 2017, Gant’s UK arm recorded a 13.5% rise in turnover to £57.8m and an operating profit of £1.9m.
Just weeks into his new job, Grevy sat down with Drapers to discuss the next steps for the brand and his push to build a sustainable, omnichannel business.
What are your initial plans as CEO?
The first thing I will be doing is looking into the operations side of the business. I want to make sure the operational foundations are being built up so that we can get the right quality and focus.
We’re really going to dive into our whole supply chain. We are becoming bigger and acquiring more markets, and we need to ensure we have the set-up that can supply all those entities.
What are your thoughts on the UK market and Gant’s position within it?
The UK is very competitive on the high street. We have all seen the news about House of Fraser, and we all need to adapt to this changing world. People are still buying clothes, but they are becoming more selective. In the future, I think people will want to buy products that are more timeless and have sustainability in mind.
There are too many actors in the marketplace for the demand that is there. Some will have to downsize, some will close.
Gant’s luxury is that we’re not a public company and, because of that, we can do the right things for the consumer and the business for the long term, without chasing a quarterly result.
When things go badly, it’s an opportunity to ask what we need to do differently. You have to change and adapt to what the consumers are asking for or are expecting to see.
I firmly believe consumers want to have the experiences of shopping – we’re not born to sit behind a computer and buy stuff. You may make your purchase on the phone, but before that, you want to be out there and experiencing it.
How are you developing product?
We have focused in on our heritage. In future seasons you will see an expansion of us celebrating the iconic styles that we’re proud of building. We will do that in a modern way that is relevant to how consumers live now.
One way we’re doing this is by expanding our Tech Prep platform [Gant’s technical-led range] over the coming season. People want products that are breathable, have moisture-wicking materials and other functional advantages. We don’t want to become a sports company – we’re a company that creates the preppy American lifestyle. But we are bringing the best properties of sportswear into the Tech Prep range.
We are also launching a second line of the Beacons Project, our sustainable line for autumn 18.
How are things evolving digitally?
We have a clear direction at Gant: everything we do has to be digital first and everything has to be mobile first. Here we are investing a lot.
We are taking more production in house. In June, we opened our own in-house production studio, so we will start to produce content for all our digital channels – it gives us agility and allows us to move much faster.
We are investing a lot in digital both in the back end and the front end. At the same time as investing online, we’re putting more digital elements into our retail stores. Digitalisation can help us interact with consumers when it is used in subtle ways.
How are the stores set to change?
Our stores have to continuously improve the consumer journey, and the consumer journey in our stores has to become seamless. There has to be a mix between experience and product information.
We’re seeking to open more stores, and currently we have a 50:50 split between wholesale and own channels. We will expand our store fleet where we see there are places for us to be, but our wholesale partners are absolutely fundamental for us. I want to work with the best wholesalers in the world to ensure that the brand gets the reach that it deserves.
Then, in the next phase of our plan, we will think about how you look at cities instead of countries – looking at more influential areas and the total omnichannel landscape. We have to localise, and our clear ambition is to make sure when we are in a city, we don’t just measure entity by entity, but we will measure as a total. Looking at what each store adds to the city’s offer as a whole, and not just at individual store performance.
How will you continue to build sustainability into the business?
Sustainability is not just in our products – it must be incorporated into the whole value chain, and that is a critical path for us. We look at our sourcing base – we look at how we’re going to buy and source raw materials.
At Gant, 80% of our raw materials comes from natural sources, so we are not reliant on fossil fuels and man-made fibres. We also don’t compromise on quality or craftsmanship. We have a philosophy and a direction in the team that the products we make should sustain over time. We do not have a “buy, throw-out” mentality.
I’ve been in this industry for most of my life and there are no shortcuts to good quality. There is not a magic formula that allows you to do product that is good quality but cheaper. If you do that, there is somewhere you are cheating in the chain. Quality is not just about the product – it’s about the whole supply chain behind it.