In Store Experience for Affordable Luxury with Nathalie Schneider
From a merchandising position in a fine food company to overseeing retail for international fashion giants, today Nathalie has taken that wealth of knowledge and turned it into a temporary consultant position in Paris. Never afraid to accept a challenge and always ready to learn something new, Nathalie specializes in maximizing the retail performance and experience for fashion brands.
Starting her career as a merchandiser for a fine food company Ducs de Gascogne she confesses: “I went into retail by accident”. An accident that brought her to have a 30 year career into brand retail.
Levi’s caught Nathalie’s interest, as an iconic and historical American brand that wanted to crack the market. She would go on to work at Levi’s based from Paris during 14 years, holding 8 different positons while developing a strong passion for the fashion retail world. It would later be that passion that led her to join Benetton, in 2012 and later, Comptoir des Cotonniers & Princesse Tam Tam as Global Retail and Wholesale Director. From European groups, to iconic American brands to French centric brands, in a Japanese groups, Nathalie found herself embracing the internationality and knowledge of all the brands she had the pleasure of working for in the past.
Each company was entirely different in culture, values, image, team diversity and approaches, particularly Fast Retailing. “Consumer is the starting point of everything and having our own retail stores allow us to focus only on them. On top of that, Fast Retailing has had a really strong reputation in terms of retail excellence. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, because the Japanese in general have this reputation of being very demanding and hard workers.”
The Comptoir des Cotonniers brand created a market of affordable luxury with the goal of offering the same retail experience worldwide. Offering a brand perspective that people recognize even outside of France, they reinvented the in-store experience in a fresh and innovative way:
Fashion collections have to deliver storytelling, the right features, the right style, inspiring collaborations etc. - whatever can help consumers understand what the brand’s image represents and what its values are.
In fact, nowadays, when we talk about retail, everything is extremely fast paced. Collections stays in the market for a short time, seasons are a thing of the past, and every month there is a new launch and so on. Therefore, store openings and their respective environments need to adapt. Nathalie’s opinion on the radical, fast paced shift?
“You need to give a reason to your consumer to come to the store frequently.”
Collection drops have to be frequent to attract and reengage clients, the marketing communication around every single event created around the launch, prices and timing has to be well thought. Brands have to create and answer the need.
Comptoir des Cotonniers, for example, changed initially its way of displaying products. They adapted themselves to the “luxury code”. They created a kind of premium environment that was, at that time, completely new. It was a total outfit, head to toe look suggested by the visual merchandiser, on mannequins but also a great consumer service taking the best part from the luxury and bringing it to the customer service. Clients were coming to Comptoir des Cotonniers to have the head to toe look style suggested by the brand. “Consumers needed advices: either they didn’t know how to dress, how combine products, what to try on or they wanted to be inspired. We had a full styling session, head to toe. They did not have to worry about anything, to find a look that worked for them considering the shape of the body, taste and fashion trends. We did it for them.”
More and more digital experience interchanges with physical experience, temporary spaces and pop-up projects are part of the everyday talks, and there are phases that are no longer considered.
Nathalie shares with us that consumer needs have to be created, as well as the brand experience: it is not just about selling products.
“Customer service is a must have but we need also brand experience. The challenge is to understand what to bring a client to the store. How to bring the consumers to the physical location, to bring something they can’t find somewhere else. It could be creative events in the flagship stores, keeping the space active and in line with your DNA to create an emotion. That’s what more and more people are looking for today. Providing seamless experiences and combining online and offline is the answer to find the right balance.”
“Life is made of opportunity. The glass for me is half full.” This is why, after so many years working into big companies she decided to take a big step and start as a freelance consultant, curating the brand experience for more than one brand at a time.
Taking her inspiration through travels, people’s stories, and books, she keeps making her own way into the retail world, never forgetting to keep her eyes open. Crazy goals are the right ones, the matter is to think long term and do anything to reach them. “The sky has no limit. If you want it, you dream about it, and get it.”