Interview with Mr. Thomas Steinhart

Mr. Thomas Steinhart
Mr. Thomas Steinhart
MD (Finance & Controlling)
s.Oliver Bernd Freier GmbH & Co. KG
s.Oliver Bernd Freier GmbH & Co. KG

s.Oliver Bernd Freier GmbH & Co. KG began in 1969 with the opening of the first retail outlet in Würzburg by its founder and owner Bernd Freier. Today, s.Oliver Group is one of the largest fashion companies in Europe. In addition to its ten brands and segments ranging from s.Oliver Baby to the premium brands s.Oliver Selection women and s.Oliver Selection men and their accessories, the s.Oliver Group also sells seven lifestyle lines that are created in collaboration with license partners. The successful independent subsidiary comma also belongs to the Group. 37 year old, Thomas Stienhart is the graduate in business economics. Since April 20, 2006, he has been working for the s.Oliver Group as its MD [Finance & Controlling] For the last five years he was a Commercial Managing Director and CFO for the international Grey Agency Group. Before that he held the position of Commercial Manager at the Internet service provider. For this week, in Face2Face, we are glad to present Thomas Steinhart’s views discussing more about hi-fashion & lifestyle products manufacturers, and the applied strategies by s.Oliver to be a successful player amongst them.

Can you provide the background information of s.Oliver Group since opening of its first retail outlet in Würzburg?

"The success story of s.Oliver began in 1969 with the opening of the first retail outlet in Würzburg by its founder and owner Mr. Bernd Freier. Within a few decades, the company had developed into one of the leading fashion manufacturers in Germany and Europe, offering fashion and lifestyle products for the whole family. Overall brand sales, including licenses, of the group operating in more than 30 countries have in the meantime climbed to euro 820 million (in 2005), which means they have more than tripled since 1995. Altogether, the company currently has 49 mega stores under own management, some 240 stores run together with partners and is represented in 1,000 shops and on 1,330 sales stands."

What brands and segments does s.Oliver cater to, currently?

"In addition to its ten brands and segments ranging from s.Oliver Baby to the premium brands s.Oliver Selection women and s.Oliver Selection men and their accessories, the s.Oliver Group also sells seven lifestyle lines that are created in collaboration with license partners. The successful independent subsidiary comma also belongs to the Group. s.Oliver Selection men (1995) / s.Oliver Selection women (1996) The premium line s.Oliver Selection offers elegant business outfits and refined leisure fashions in outstanding quality and an optimal fit. With twelve collections a year, s.Oliver responds to the quickly changing demands of the market. s.Oliver Casual men (1975) / s.Oliver Casual women (1975) Above all, young and trend-conscious people who demand high quality wear s.Oliver Casual. The urbane collection combines great wearing comfort with good workmanship – young, sporty, and completely in keeping with the zeitgeist. s.Oliver Casual is fashionably up-to-date, international and sophisticated. This brand stands out because of an additional factor: it is affordable. With twelve collections a year and attractive special programs, the appropriate outfit can always be found in s.Oliver Casual. QS by s.Oliver male (2004) / QS by s.Oliver female (1993) QS by s.Oliver stands for red-hot fashion that primarily appeals to the young trendsetter. The quick and creative translation of current trends into high-end qualities with attractive colour combinations and particularly fashionable fits are typical of the collection. For QS by s.Oliver, an individual look full of surprising and exciting details sets the tone. The collection rhythm with twelve collections per year ensures a fast translation of the trends. Anastacia by s.Oliver (August 2006) High fashion and yet commercially oriented – this is the statement of the collection marked by the personal style and international flair of Anastacia. The collection is created by s.Oliver in cooperation with an international designer team that works exclusively for her. With her first collection of her own, Anastacia will inspire self-confident and open young women. s.Oliver Junior (1987) s.Oliver Boys and Girls (1987) Children in the age group between six and fourteen years are already oriented toward the style of teens and their fashions. However, it is most important for the outfit to be durable and comfortable. s.Oliver Boys and Girls unites these demands into twelve collections per year. The trends are based on the casual segments, but the materials come from the children’s segments. Parents will be happy about their fashionably dressed children and even happier about the good price. s.Oliver Kids (1997) Between the ages of two and seven years, there is a great need to be dressed in a casual and uncomplicated way. Children want to discover, play, and have fun. The outfit obviously has to play along. s.Oliver Kids stands for quality clothing that doesn’t constrict and stands outs because of its cheerful, colourful design. The monthly collections are offered at a fantastic price. Moreover, s.Oliver Kids has a pure and basic program and additional special collections. This means an inexhaustible choice of up-to-date children’s clothing. s.Oliver Baby (1997) New parents want only the best for their baby. This is why s.Oliver Baby exclusively uses soft materials that are absolutely free of harmful chemicals. Above all, children’s clothing for two- to twenty-month-old babies must be comfortable. Another factor is a design that is appropriate for babies and fashionable too. In addition, the outfit must also be affordable. s.Oliver Baby offers all of this. A monthly change of collections and two special collections continually provide the market with the most fashionable articles. Just Arrived (2002) Since August 2002, there have been articles for newborns within the s.Oliver Baby collection. Just Arrived is the name of these articles within the s.Oliver Baby collections that are attuned to the needs of this youngest target group and its parents: quality, comfort, and ultra-trendy design at a fair price. Just Arrived includes: one-piece rompers, pants with a soft waistband, shirts and sweats, and soft jackets. The styles are suitable for babies and made of soft materials with matching accessories. s.Oliver accessories (1997) The bags and small leather goods by s.Oliver offer a broad spectrum for every taste: from classic to sporty to highly fashionable, there's something for everyone. As a constant companion, the highest demands for quality and up-to-the-minute trends are translated to give the wearer optimal benefit at work or play. s.Oliver Accessories are perfectly coordinated with the fashion collections and highlight the look."

How would you term the success of s.Oliver brand?

Apart from a stringent brand management based on distinctive image positioning – the guarantee for being well known and well liked – it is the ability to identify current trends and translate them into commercial products in the shortest possible time. It is the quickness and professionalism, with which more than twelve collections per brand and segment are offered every year in a perfect fit, excellent quality and unbeatable cost/benefit ratio. And it is also the possibility of handling up to 350,000 items per day in one of the most advanced logistics centres in Europe located at the company headquarters in Rottendorf. And last but not least it is the team spirit and unconventional corporate culture of its workforce totalling 2,350 employees that accounts for the success of s.Oliver.

Your current Campaign - Fall/Winter 2006 campaign is shot in Arizona? Could you please explain how and why?

The successful introduction of a new image language for the umbrella brand s.Oliver in Spring/Summer 2006 was followed by the consistent continuation in the Fall/Winter 2006/2007 s.Oliver Image Campaign. The backdrop for the six-day photo shoot was the barren beauty of the Grand Canyon. One special location was a disused goldmine. The rocky landscape and sparse vegetation, plus architectural objects in metal, in different shades of brown created an autumnal atmosphere. Every motif tells its own story. Thus, for instance, the pictures for s.Oliver Casual women and men represent the keywords Wellness and Nature, expressed by natural elements such as rocks or an elegant horse. s.Oliver Selection is romantic but strong; the motifs show an evening atmosphere and clear lines. Trendy styling and poses that transport the values “Sex Appeal” and “Energy” show QS by s.Oliver in the proper light. Above all else, the images of the focus theme Denim emphasise the fit and the authenticity of the denim products. s.Oliver Bodywear was shown in an exciting, sexy setting. Meanwhile, the younger looks of s.Oliver Junior are all about fun and being natural, whereas the older s.Oliver Boys and Girls are cooler in appearance. s.Oliver accessories and the s.Oliver licensed lines were presented with special motifs and without appearing artificial.

What steps does s.Oliver plan to take the brand to the next level?

We want to continue to expand. We are planning to increase the group’s brand revenue to 1.5 billion euro by 2010.

What quality policy does s.Oliver follow to provide the best to its customers?

We aim for total customer satisfaction by setting the highest quality standards for our products. This means all products undergo a three step quality assurance procedure at the production, than with our local agency and at the central logistic here in Germany.

Could you throw some light on the supply chain management strategy adopted by your Group?

We are controlling all important steps of the production without owning the production, this means our own agencies work very closely on a local level with the production facilities, in order to assure the right timing, quality and price.

Anastacia by s.Oliver – how was this conceived and what is the response from market?

"s.Oliver was looking for an opportunity to provide a perfect stage for the brand and make it more international. The collaboration with a pop star who is established as a trendsetter was an easy choice. Since the whole project had to be credible from the start and designed for long-term success, the collaboration developed with the star who is second to none in the way she stands for success and authenticity throughout Europe: Anastacia. Since Anastacia also wanted to create her own fashion line, the partnership was perfect from the start. It was somehow ‘destiny’ that the two came together at the same time. The first meeting already took place in April of 2005 in Munich. The market expects that the brand’s ten collections will sell so well every year that they will contribute 100 million euro to the brand turnover within two years."
Published on: 20/11/2006

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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