“Merchant site, marketplaces, physical resellers… and now, we are moving to own stores. We try everything! If it works, we duplicate. Otherwise, we stop. A simple but effective strategy for the Made in France sock brand The Sock of France (LCF) created by the Tismail factory.
This company from Troyes, founded in 1961, manufactures white label socks, notably for the French armies, La Poste, the gendarmerie, mass distribution and brands such as Aigle, Fusalp, Le Slip français, Cocorico or La Redoute. Its CEO Benoit Seguinjoined the SME in 2010 alongside the buyer
Alain Laumone. “For several years, we hunkered down, trimmed our margins to continue to offer competitive Made in France. And then, we said to ourselves that the best way to start being more free was to create our own brand,” sums up Benoît Seguin.
Thus was born La Chaussette de France, about ten years ago. Until last year, the commercial brand developed only on the internet and via a network of retailers such as Au Vieux Campeur and Terre de Running. The objective of this new strategy: to provide a showcase to embody the brand and strengthen its image with customers. And of course, increasing its share in the overall turnover of the SME by 48 employees.
Ten stores by 2027
After three first openings, in La Rochelle in June 2021, Lyon in November 2021 and Lille in April 2022, the choice of retail as a new mode of distribution and development seems to be bearing fruit. “We are satisfied with the start of these first points of sale. La Rochelle got off to a particularly good start: in seven months, we had achieved the turnover forecast for one year”, rejoices Benoît Seguin.
In its concept stores of 45 m² on average, the Made in France sock manufacturer exclusively sells products from its own brand, La Chaussette de France. Technical socks, which made it known in the world of skiing, then trail and running, but also more casual socks, available in offers for men, women and children.
A fourth store, ephemeral this time, will open its doors in October 2022 in Arcachon, for a period of six months. “We are seizing an opportunity, slips Benoît Seguin. If it is conclusive, we will renew the experience the following year. Other projects are also in progress, the objective being to reach six to ten stores within three to five years.
For now, Tismail is limiting risk-taking. These openings are done directly, on self-financing, thanks to a rather comfortable cash flow. “We prefer to pay higher rents but dispense with key money and the right to lease,” adds the manager. So-called “American-style” leases that allow the tenant not to pay too large sums of money at start-up.
Emancipate yourself from mass distribution
In ten years, La Chaussette de France has gained ground, going as far as to weigh 20% of Tismail’s overall turnover in 2019. “This fell to 15% in 2020, the fault of Covid and the activity reduced in the ski resorts where we have many of our 500 dealers. But we hope that this figure will rise to 25% this year,” assures Benoît Seguin. 20% of the production lines at the Troyes factory are already entirely dedicated to La Chaussette de France, and the brand’s turnover should almost double, going from 700,000 euros in 2021 to 1.3 million in 2022, of which 400,000 euros should be made in LCF stores.
On the other hand, there is no question, for the moment, of talking about franchise or commission-affiliation. The development of the stores continues to be done in-house. At least initially. “I haven’t looked into the matter yet, but I’m not closing the door on this opportunity, which has the advantage of bringing independent entrepreneurs into the network, who can come up with proposals. Because retail is a separate profession, in which we realize that a store must be managed as a profit center in its own right. And it’s not necessarily easy, unless they are run by a franchisee,” analyzes Benoît Seguin.
Tismail also dreams of direct international development for its brand, which is already distributed by around a hundred retailers in Europe. But remain cautious: the priority is to stabilize the first stores that are still very young.