Interview with Patrick Seghin

Patrick Seghin
Patrick Seghin
Damartex Group
Damartex Group

To succeed, one needs to constantly adapt to the customer's needs
Patrick Seghin, Chief Executive Officer of Damartex Group, explains the importance of customer satisfaction for the success of a business with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Ilin Mathew. Synopsis: Established in 1953, french apparel manufacturer and distributor Damartex group is mainly engaged in producing thermal cloths for seniors (55+). Its main markets are France, Great Britain, Belgium and Switzerland. Patrick Seghin serves as CEO and Chairman of the Management Board of Damartex SA since October 1, 2008. From 2005 to 2008, Mr. Seghin had been President of the catalogue activities of Staples Europe. In 2003, he took charge of the retail division in Germany. In 2000, he joined Staples as Vice President of International Marketing. He started his career in 1990 in the retail division of Shell Group. Excerpts:

Damartex is one of the leading European distributors of clothing and accessories for seniors, since 1953. How does a 60 year old company stay relevant today?

For the last 60 years, we have been true to the values of the founders of the Damart brand: Always start with the customer and put innovation and entrepreneuship at the heart of our way of doing business. In today's world where the pace of change is rapidly increasing, this approach has served us well. Furthermore, we have always remained focused on our core target audience: the 55+ market (our definition of the seniors market). It is a fast-growing market with real specificities - Over the years, we have developed an in-depth understanding of this market and the Damartex group enables all the eight brands in the portfolio to share those learning's.

According to your words, "The world champions are the best drivers of quality and technological performance of our textile innovations." Can you tell us about it?

For the Damart brand, textile intelligence (our approach to innovation in textile) has always been essential and there is no better testing field than extreme sports in order to test products in real life conditions. Let me give you some examples: We sponsored Jean Claude Killy who remains today the only downhill skier with three gold medals in one olympics, Brian Joubert, ice skating world champion, Christine Arron, world champion in 100m, Chris Bonnington, first to climb the Everest on its North face, etc.

Innovative product range, customized services, and widespread market network-which of these three do you consider the most important for a textile and apparel manufacturing company to be successful? Why?

I would like to propose you another answer: start with the customer! For a textile manufacturing company, it is not easy to remain the number 1 choice season after season. To succeed, one needs to constantly adapt to the customer's needs.

Europe is one of most developed countries with high consumption of clothing. What are some of the supply chain issues faced by garment sector in the country?

An agile supply chain is every company's objective. Lead time reduction and quality control have been some of the key challenges.

Despite the global slowdown, sale of thermal wear remains strong. What are the factors driving it?

You are right: sales of thermals do remain strong. Ten years ago, thermals were mainly a first layer answer to staying warm. Thermals were heavy and stayed hidden under a knitwear layer. This has changed over the last few years: with new technologies, thermals are today much lighter and softer. Designers have produced much wider range of colours & styles. The results are there today: the thermal category is no longer a commodity range but an innovative one with good growth potential.

Quoting from the company website, "We believe that the values of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) are values for the future." Could you elaborate?

The times when a company could only focus on customers, shareholders and employees are over. Today, the community at large is becoming an important stakeholder and therefore acting responsibly is a real must.

Do you think that global clothing manufacturers have a role in improving occupational health and safety in textile and clothing factories? Kindly Elaborate.

Absolutely. Global clothing manufacturers play a key role in supporting the manufacturing evolution to become a more responsible actor. We need to start from the ground up and partner with the manufacturing plans to work on detailed action plans to improve health & safety. Moving from statements to actions is essential.

In an ever changing world, how do you recognize opportunities and challenges before hand and prepare for the same?

In my role, it has all to do with time management. I try to organize my agenda well in advanced and to properly balance time between daily issues and midterm strategic challenges. I spend significant time on the road, visiting our stores but also our competitors - there is no better way to stay open to long term changes than to spend time talking with your customers.

Finally, what was the biggest challenge that you had faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Throughout my career, I have faced numerous business challenges. I have found that the single most important way to overcome them has always been the quality and the cohesion of your leading team. With an aligned and dedicated team, ready to confront the reality and act upon in, you can truly write amazing entrepreneurial stories.
Published on: 22/05/2014

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