Delvaux is reapproaching its U.S. business with a digital slant. Today, the luxury Belgian accessories brand launches its own U.S. e-commerce site — a first for the label best-known for its traditional, handcrafted approach. This follows Delvaux’s mid-April launch of a European e-commerce site — its very first — and represents a larger plan to roll out direct-to-consumer online shopping in each of its international markets.
Chief executive officer Marco Probst said when he joined Delvaux in 2012, only 3 percent of the company’s sales came from international markets. Today that figure hovers between 85 and 90 percent.
“It was our objective to put product on the map. Until now, it was our priority to open stores in prominent locations because otherwise, who would go to an e-commerce site for a brand that is not known yet?” said Probst.
The executive took a sabbatical last year and enrolled in a certificate course in digital marketing. He returned to the helm of Delvaux last December with the intention of “setting a road map for digitalization.” A few months thereafter, coronavirus hit and he moved up the launch of e-commerce.
“In January it became clear that something is happening in the world that we cannot control, which will have a big effect on human behavior all over the world — so we decided to accelerate [our e-commerce] program,” he said.
A European site launched on April 17, and while a U.S. iteration launches today, there will be future rollouts in Japan and other key markets. The web site will stock Delvaux’s new denim collection, which was designed in homage to Gloria Vanderbilt and her signature line of jeans.
Probst said it would be ideal if e-commerce could amount to 10 percent of Delvaux’s total global sales. “The important thing is to create a link between stores and e-commerce and wholesale. It’s a holistic approach — nowadays anyway people seek information on the Internet,” he said.
In previous years, Barneys New York’s e-commerce site was a primary mode of digital sales for Delvaux in the U.S. Now that the department store is gone, Delvaux said the brand’s Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan — opened in January 2019 — is its sole stockist in the U.S. It is negotiating a few select wholesale accounts in the region. Delvaux’s New York store is its only flagship location still partially closed due to the pandemic and is available for shopping by appointment only.
“Right now it’s a pretty small market,” Probst said of the U.S. “I think my objective is to create a pretty healthy balance between the markets. East and West should have the same weight somehow. Right now Europe is a core market, particularly Belgium, but also the U.K., Italy and France are growing. We are strong in South Korea and China as well but the U.S. is still small and has room to grow.”
As for the claim that handbags have been rendered useless by COVID-19 lockdowns, Probst said: “I think our handbags are more than a regular day-to-day product. You feel attached to them, you have a passion for these products. I am a guitar player and buy custom guitars on the Internet and even in lockdown, you just have a pleasure seeing these products.”