The Bogner brand has stood for sport, fashion and luxury since 1932. It cannot be separated from its owners, Willy and Sonia Bogner, who have positioned Bogner for success all over the world. Now, for the first time in the family-owned company’s history, an outsider has taken leadership within the company. Alexander Wirth was appointed CEO in September 2016 and has been tasked with the challenge of breathing new life into the somewhat outdated image. He has already proved he can do it at Ralph Lauren and Burberry, but time will tell if he has the same success at Bogner. FashionUnited DE met with him and asked him how he plans to prepare Bogner for the future.
FashionUnited: You officially took over leadership of the company from Willy Bogner a few months ago. How do you follow in the footsteps of a legend?
Alexander Wirth: "As the CEO I am the successor of Willy Bogner. It is a great honour that Bogner has put his trust in me to continue his work as chief executive officer. We are all proud to be part of the team that will lead the brand into a new era. Of course we will be putting a number of measures in place to modernise the company, but we will definitely remain faithful to the company’s history. I am looking forward to the challenge!"
Bogner is one of the few companies that successfully sells sport and fashion at the same time, which is very much the trend nowadays. What are your plans for Bogner?
"Bogner has always successfully brought together and marketed ski gear and fashion; therefore, the ski gear and fashion connection is very important for us. Sports fashion is precisely in the middle and that is also a unique opportunity. We used to concentrate our efforts on our luxury ski gear and fashion line. In the future, especially in the summer, we will put more emphasis on sports fashion with themes such as Mountainfit, Golf and Athleisure."
"Athleisure will be a permanent part of our sports fashion collection. We exhibited the “World of Bogner” for the first time at the Premium Exhibition in Berlin and we will move more towards sports fashion in the future with our new design director Andreas Baumgärtner."
What are your goals for Bogner?
"Our goal is to earn 300 million euros in revenues within the next five years. Our five year strategy covers the following milestones: We are continuing to focus on ski fashion during the winter and are planning to expand our Golf und Mountainfit summer collection F/S 2018; we will also focus on expanding our sports fashion line. To that end, we want to relaunch Fire & Ice. Another point is to further strengthen our brand and logo in the market. As far as the sales channels are concerned, we want to generate more growth in online sales."
What are you planning to do with Fire & Ice?
"We will relaunch Fire & Ice and position it as a younger, cooler product line. I also envision a children’s collection. The Fire & Ice brand has been integrated too strongly with the Bogner collection in recent years."
What is the current proportion of revenues generated by ski gear and fashion?
"We earn approximately 35 to 40 percent of our revenues from sports-related activewear. About 10 to 15 percent of that is generated by ski clothing. We earn approximately 65 percent of our revenues from sports-related fashion. These areas will be positioned more clearly in the future; summer fashion in particular will expand further. In the winter, we will continue to focus on ski gear and fashion and, as mentioned earlier, we will concentrate on golf, Mountainfit and Athleisure in the summer."
What does your international strategy look like? Which markets are the strongest?
"Our strongest market is Germany, followed by the USA, Russia and Eastern Europe. We earn 45 percent of our revenues from our international market, thus outside of Germany. The DACH (German speaking) region should become a stronger area of focus in the future along with Europe and the Middle East, but even regions like Russia are showing very positive trends. Of course, China is a very interesting market too, considering the 2022 Winter Olympics that is marked by an increased interest in our brand."
The fashion industry is currently facing the challenge of reworking the timing for their collections. Are you also dealing with the same challenge?
"Of course – we put a lot of effort into our deliveries. In the long-term, we want to move our ski clothing collection away from city shops and into the resorts so that sales will continue longer before dropping off, and to prevent products from being out on the floor for such a long time. To that end, points-of-sale must be provided and refreshed every time with different capsule collections. In the end, it all boils down to providing the right product at the right time and in the right place. We are working on managing sourcing, production and delivery accordingly so that we will be able to achieve this goal. The vision is quite clear: A pre-collection and a main collection. We must get closer to the market and see what our customers need. Of course, many dealers want to receive the products as soon as possible, but we tell them that the timing must be right. Men in particular buy a product when they need it and not at the beginning of the season."
How are wholesale and your retail business coming along, and do you still want to change the timing there?
"Our retail business has the potential to grow by 5 percent – a little less in the cities – and online by 20 percent. We will earn approximately 30 percent of our revenues with Bogner stores – in other words with our own stores and franchise partners, 18 percent will come from online business. We will earn 52 percent via traditional wholesale channels. That means we will be able to control the introduction of future delivery times via our own channels."
You have become the target of animal rights activists – German animal welfare associations have held protests against your company and brand on several occasions. Why is that?
"Personally, it took me by surprise that they focused on us because our collection only contains three to four percent real fur. Besides, customers can buy any piece in a fur-free version. In other words, the customer always has a choice. Of course, I think it is perfectly fine for people to hold protests, but it is not alright to hold protests directly in front of the shop, so we had to take action then."
What does the future hold concerning Bogner use of fur?
"At the end of December Bogner and the German Animal Welfare Agency agreed to hold an open discussion about animal fur. This meeting took place a few days ago in Munich and it was open and constructive. Freedom of speech is important and we support that wholeheartedly, as long as it does not become radical in terms of demands and behaviours. Of course we believe in the importance of transparency in all procedures and processes involved in acquiring animal fur products and that those procedures and processes can be monitored. I see improvements in this area as one of Bogner’s goals for the future, even beyond the legal requirements."
Images: Bogner S/S 2017 / Alexander Wirth: Karl Kramer