Seven & I ties with Jean Paul Gaultier

Apr 15

Seven & I has been busy recently. As well as launching a new home fashion chain (see page 7) and making Barney’s Japan a full subsidiary, it has found time to negotiate a deal with Jean Paul Gaultier for a new apparel line to be sold through both Sogo Seibu and Ito-Yokado. After so many efforts to reignite its apparel business, could it at last have found a solution?

Seven & I has signed a collaboration with leading French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Creative Director of Hermes until 2010, Gaultier is helping develop a new womenswear private brand that will be sold through both Ito-Yokado and Sogo Seibu. The brand will be called Sept Premieres and will be launched in September, designed as the apparel equivalent of Seven & I’s premium level private brand in food, Seven Gold, but this one focused on quality fabrics and design rather than gourmet ingredients.

The collection will consist of what Seven & I calls high quality basics but with a wide colour palette and variety of sizes in order to target a broad segment covering working women up to the Missus market. Within this will be a collection called ‘Jean Paul Gaultier for Sept Premieres’, with about half the number of SKUs of the main brand.

This is at least the fourth attempt by Seven & I to fix the beleaguered apparel business at Ito-Yokado, but there are signs of hope. PB development is being overseen by Sogo Seibu’s president, Takashi Matsumoto, who for many years was the head of the department store’s apparel division and who spearheaded the successful expansion of the Limited Edition PB, taking it from launch in 2009 to a ¥100 billion business last year. Matsumoto himself brokered the deal with Gaultier thanks to a long acquaintance.

Like Limited Edition, Sept Premieres is also centrally managed. Unlike previous efforts, which relied on a diverse mix of suppliers and middlemen, Seven has built the new brand from scratch on the SPA model and designed it to fit with its omnichannel strategy.

The deal with Gaultier is not just about leveraging a famous name, it is also a way to emphasise the difference between the new brand and the plethora of very similar private brands and wholesaled brands in department stores and GMS chains.

Sept Premieres will appear in distinctive 20-30 sqm corners in all Sogo Seibu stores as well as 135 of the 181 Ito-Yokado stores, although the Gaultier edition of the brand will only be sold through 45 Ito-Yokado stores. A total of 100 styles and 1,000 SKUs will be produced for the main line in A/W 2015 along with 500 SKUs for the Gaultier collection, with prices ranging from ¥4,000 to ¥20,000 for the main range and up to ¥30,000 for the Gaultier brand. Sales of ¥5 billion are expected in the first year alone for the main line and ¥2.5 billion for Gaultier.

As well as being news in itself, the deal is also interesting in its support for Seven & I’s much vaunted omnichannel strategy and its efforts to fix the GMS chain at the same time. It also hints of something of a revival of Seibu’s hugely successful collaborations with famous designers in the 1970s and 1980s that helped make it such a successful retailer in the early years.

In addition, Sept Premieres is the first PB designed from scratch following the successful implementation of Seven & I’s inventory management and customer data collection systems at Sogo Seibu in the last six years – while Limited Edition has benefitted in recent years from this data flow and more efficient stock control, Sept Premieres will be the first to really take advantage of the platform.

The Gaultier deal is just the first collaboration, with others expected in both apparel and accessories shortly. With Barney’s knowledgeable buyers now working within Seven & I, perhaps there could be a revival of innovative merchandising at Sogo Seibu too – and this time suited to the modern demand for value private brands and the operational needs of a mixed format retail conglomerate.

Head of Seibu Shibuya becomes Barney’s Japan president

Seven & I has installed Sakichi Takahashi, former head of Seibu Shibuya, as president of Barney’s Japan. The appointment follows the completion of the merger of Barney’s into Seven & I in February when Seven & I acquired the remaining 50% stake held by Sumitomo Shoji.

Takahashi, formerly a director of Seibu, was brought in to troubleshoot the Shibuya store, and is regarded as having done much to improve its fortunes, in particular returning the store to its roots as a source of leading fashion, art and design under the theme ‘Art meets Life’ – he also developed the successful Compolux select shop area within the store that sells brands like 3.1 Phillip Lam and Tod Snyder. He will be tasked with expanding the Barney’s New York chain further in Japan, as well as unifying its operations with Seven & I and coordinating with sister company Sogo Seibu on PB development and omnichannel strategy.