Patricia Huyghues Despointes

PARIS — SMCP, the group behind accessible luxury labels Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot and De Fursac, has named Patricia Huyghues Despointes chief financial officer, tapping a luxury goods executive with extensive financial experience as it plots a new course for future growth.

Huyghues Despointes joins from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, where she was most recently CFO of Givenchy, but also led the financial controlling team at the group’s fashion and leather goods division overseeing 15 brands.

“Her excellent knowledge of our environment and her financial expertise are major assets that will contribute to our group’s success as we enter into a new chapter in our history,” said Daniel Lalonde, chief executive officer of SMCP.

Lalonde, also a former LVMH executive, is steering the group’s focus on organic expansion, a shift that comes after a period of fast international growth — including in China — that had seen dozens of new stores added each year. The pace has since been set at between 35 and 50 new points of sale annually, with a focus on Asia. As the group emphasizes organic growth, it will seek to build interest in its brands through marketing and plans are to double such investments this year.

Asked how she saw the future of accessible luxury in the current context, Huyghues Despointes pointed to the broad appeal of the Parisian brands.

“I’m convinced there is a reservoir of significant growth potential as Daniel [Lalonde] has often stressed, with like-for-like growth as one of the key sources of this in the future for SMCP brands,” she said.

Regarding the role of accessories — a category Lalonde has emphasized when detailing his strategy — Huyghues Despointes noted that they serve a crucial role as a means of recruiting new clients, of cross-selling and projecting the image of the various brands.

Huyghues Despointes, 44, is a graduate from the French business school HEC Paris as well as the political science institution Sciences Po. She started out at LVMH in corporate finance, working on projects in financing, taxation and acquisitions.

The CFO position was previously held by Philippe Gautier, who left in October and now works for Selecta, a company that sells coffee vending machines.

The new appointment follows the arrival of Olivier Malvezin, who was named chief digital and operations officer at the group in December, highlighting another key priority area for SMCP.

Chinese textile group Ruyi Group owns around 54 percent of SMCP.

Hit by the decline in consumption due to the coronavirus pandemic, SMCP’s sales dropped 25.8 percent to 621.2 million euros over the first nine months of 2020. While the group saw improvement in business across all regions over the third quarter, with sales down 9.5 percent, executives have maintained a cautious outlook given the resurgence of the coronavirus in many parts of the world.

Lalonde has said he seeks a future for SMCP as a “very modest LVMH of accessible luxury,” referring to the luxury group that dwarfs rivals with a stable of 70 high-end brands.

Asked what could be applied at SMCP from her time at LVMH, Huyghues Despointes was quick to answer.

“Desirablity is key to the success of a brand,” she said.