Arantxa Gómez

How does a brand refine — and redefine — itself for a new generation of shoppers without alienating an existing customer base? Desigual retail director Arantxa Gómez discussed the challenges of evolving a long-standing high-street brand for the 21st-century customer.

“When we started in 1984, we grew a lot and now we are present in more or less every single country. You name it, we’re there. But, at the end of the day, when you grow that fast, you don’t focus on anything because you are trying to focus on too many different things at once. In the end, when you want to be specific on something, you just miss it,” she said.

Now, she said, “We really want to move from bigger to better.”

The plan, Gómez said, is to create a new Desigual within the existing brand, and it’s based on three pillars: The brand-consumer relationship, an innovative product offering and unity across retail and communication channels.

The pillars are meant to reinforce the brand’s principles, including emotion, an unwavering focus on the customer and a quality product. Desigual’s plan is to evolve the collections to attract a younger audience at a pace that won’t alarm the current customer base, which Gómez said averages between 45 and 55 years old.

The Barcelona-based label was founded in 1984 by then-20-year-old Swiss designer Thomas Meyer, who wanted to “inspire people to be themselves,” to feel authentic, and to express that authenticity with unique pieces.

“We don’t sell clothes, we don’t sell fashion, we don’t follow the trends. What we make sure to do is sell emotions so that people feel different when they wear Desigual. That, for me, is imperative,” she said.

It’s an ethos Gómez hopes will win over a Millennial audience. “Reaching that audience is very difficult for all retailers. All brands want to know how to get new customers,” she said, adding there is an added barrier to that lucrative market. Millennials associate the brand with their mothers’ wardrobes, but not in a good way.

The company is working on more coherent social media and communication strategies that reflect the brand’s evolution and is actively working with influencers to build its social media visibility. Desigual is taking its extensive customer research and developing products specifically for this market. It has developed a new store concept and put a focus on in-store experiences.

She said the brand wants to create an army of passionate ambassadors out of its 4,500-strong employee base in the hope that their loyalty will be transmitted organically to new customers.

Gómez said the company has invested in making its people feel valued and regularly throws parties for the staff and hosts creative talks at its Barcelona headquarters. It has set up a sports club and a swimming team, and runs yoga classes.

“This is a company that was made with people, by people, and we need to make everybody feel a part of it,” she said.

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