Sophie Paris opens door to Hanoi

14:34 | 27/08/2012
French owned, Jakarta-headquartered fashion firm Sophie Paris last week launched its first showroom in Hanoi to strengthen its foothold in Vietnam’s fashion market. Sophie Paris’ general director Nick Jonsson talks with VIR’s Nhu Ngoc about the firm’s future plans in Vietnam.

Sophie Paris has been present in Vietnam for two years, but just in Ho Chi Minh City and Danang. Why is Sophie opening in Hanoi now?

Hanoi has long been an important market for Sophie Paris, even with no formal set up here. We have almost 5,000 members here already, without active recruitment, and a business that typically yields around $30,000 per month and $1.5 million since our opening in Ho Chi Minh City. We would expect this number to at least double in the coming months now that we have the infrastructure to better support existing members and to drive both new member sign ups and product sales.

Many luxurious brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Gucci have been present in Hanoi for a long time, but these brands are aimed to rich people. What about Sophie Paris, who are your customers?

We don’t compete with luxurious brands. We are very much a mass-market brand.  We don’t see any of those companies as competitors to Sophie Paris.  There are millions of people in Hanoi, but there are probably only hundreds of people who can afford to shop at those stores.  We are more interested in the millions. About 84 per cent of our members are female. Vietnamese females love fashion. If you look at the low-end market, there are many fake products with poor quality and the luxurious products are sold at department stores where few people can buy. But if you want to buy a reasonable product that is guaranteed, Sophie Paris is a good choice. That why we offer products for middle class people.

The consumption in Vietnam is slowing because of the economic downturn, are you afraid of that low demand will negatively impact your revenue in this market?

Tough times are about value.  We have to be seen to be delivering value to our customers – to every person who buys a Sophie Paris bag, wallet or pair of shoes.  As well as that we have to be seen to be delivering value to our members in terms of our reward structures, training and bonus systems. 

Without this, they would all turn their backs on us. I know that the business environment in Vietnam like other countries is not so good and many companies are holding back their expansion. I know foreign investment in Vietnam is currently down. But this time, many people are looking affordable products and nice design and we offer them something affordable in Vietnam.
Could you tell me more about the business results in Vietnam since Sophie was launched in Ho Chi Minh City two years ago?

We have had a stellar entry to Vietnam.  We are approaching our second anniversary and have already sold around $8 million worth of products and attracted over 35,000 members so far.  We have been aggressive in our marketing here, putting out a new catalog every 45 days, with 40 per cent new stock in each catalog, and importantly, added new product categories including footwear, lingerie, cosmetics and so on.  We have also been active in geographic expansion, opening Danang a couple of months ago and now Hanoi.  We are now looking at further expanding our footprint into other cities around Vietnam.
You’ve just mentioned the future expansion plan in Vietnam, could you tell me more?

Firstly, geographic expansion. In the past few months we have launched our new showroom at 203 Minh Khai street in Hanoi and in Danang, in addition to our first branch in Ho Chi Minh City.

We plan to continue to expand in more cities in Vietnam. We are currently also looking at the Mekong Delta, Haiphong and other major cities. Secondly, product category expansion. We have brought new product categories to market including lingerie, sanitary pads, cosmetics, footwear and so forth.  We will continue to introduce new products in Vietnam since this is an exciting market to be in right now and we are thrilled to be growing along with the market. We have a new catalog every 45 days and about 40 per cent of the products are new styles. The Vietnamese people love new designs so Sophie Paris and Vietnam is a perfect combination.

How do you assess the fashion market in Vietnam?

Either Vietnamese consumers can purchase original, luxury products at department stores for a high price tag, or they have to purchase cheap copies without warranty at the market. Sophie Paris finds itself in the middle of this. We have styles and designs for the whole family at a reasonable price tag.

You said Sophie Paris introduced a new catalog every 45 days, that is very impressive. Could you tell us about your design team?

Our design team is led by a designer named Arno Roca. We have design team in France and a design team in Indonesia. Our designers travel all around the world and attend many fashion shows in many different countries. Their ideals not only come from Europe, but also from American and Asia. Every 45 days we introduce new catalog and in each catalog there are around 200 new products. Some people even order us to launch new products every 30 days because they cannot wait till 45 days.

At this time, Sophie Paris is manufacturing products in Indonesia, Malaysia, France and China. Do you have any plan to set up a manufacturing facility in Vietnam?

Most fashion products are made in Indonesia, Malaysia, France and China. There are some other products like motorbike helmets and raincoats we made in Vietnam to promote our brand.

By Nhu Ngoc

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