GDI: In 2021, you moved from Ikea to C&A. What can a fashion retailer learn from a furniture store?
Giny Boer: It is important that C&A stands out with self-confidence and goes its own way. With the experience I gained during my career – not only at Ikea but also in other positions – I can valuably contribute to that. Ikea and C&A are both international organisations with a long history as family-owned businesses. As retailers at heart, we are aiming at a broad audience with the products we are selling. Thus, at C&A, we can combine these aspects with our shared passion for fashion.
C&A is said to be lagging behind in e-commerce; you wish to change that. What are the advantages of a late adopter?
C&A never had the intention to focus on online retail only. Instead, we want to strengthen a blended digital and offline approach that reflects increasingly complex buying patterns by our customers. Today, we are in the process of making significant, transformational changes. We believe it will secure C&A’s future success in a digital marketplace. In the next three years, we will invest more in digital solutions than in the past decade. In the next two years, we plan to increase our digital and e-commerce teams, creating around 100 new positions. By updating almost 400 stores, we are strengthening our store business. Today, we can already see the result of significantly higher traffic in stores with the new design.
At the International Retail Summit, the topic is "flow commerce", i.e. seamless commerce on- and offline. How are you building such a world for C&A?
Intense interaction with consumers on their paths across various channels is very important for us. We try to make sure that the exchange is frictionless at every touchpoint and distinctive across all channels. For example: With Click & Collect, we offer an omnichannel journey by showing products online that are available in a store. Our collaborations with Social Media Influencers are also essential for us. They engage our customers to explore our brand, browse our online shops and visit our stores.
How do faltering supply chains and Russia's aggression against Ukraine affect your business?
The outbreak of the Covid pandemic and the Ukraine war increased global challenges. We see disrupted processes in global supply chains, containers that are available hardly or for very high prices, and increased fuel prices put an additional strain on transportation by container ships and trucks.
C&A relocated part of its jeans production to Germany. Apart from the sustainability factor, is this also a sign of declining globalisation?
We made our decision even before the pandemic. It is important for us to continuously improve production and make it more sustainable regardless of the location, whether it is in Europe, Asia or elsewhere. C&A FIT is an important part of this approach. Due to the interrupted supply chains, the topic of "production in Europe" gained new momentum overall. The consequences of the war on Ukraine are now hitting other sectors hard as well.
As a European company, we see our decision in favour of our new Mönchengladbach-based factory C&A FIT confirmed once again. Producing here means moving closer to a large part of our customers and more independence from global supply chains.
The battle for good employees is intensifying. How do you want to win it?
You attract reliable employees with a convincing corporate culture. I am convinced that leading in a friendly and cooperative manner is essential. For me, respect, transparency and a clear vision are important elements on our path together at C&A. We support our colleagues, share information and leave them enough opportunities to share their perspectives. Everybody deserves to be treated well and feel like belonging at C&A, whatever their background or identity is. I am convinced that we shape an environment where your strength comes out, where you grow and where you can become your best self at C&A.
Boer will be speaking at the
72nd International Retail Summit from 8 to 9 September 2022 at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. Thought leaders, industry experts and startup founders will discuss on the theme Flow Commerce: How Shifting Boundaries Reshape Retail.