Ahlers AG is one of the leading manufacturers of men’s fashion in Germany and Europe, including Russia. Ahlers produces and distributes modern, functional, high-quality and sustainable menswear under five distinct brands in the mid and upper price segments. In addition to its wholesale trade with retail clients, the company’s sales activities focus on the expansion of its eCommerce business. In addition, the company offers professional workwear under the Pionier Workwear brand. All brands are to be even clearer positioned and be efficiently and profitably managed in the future. Solid and sustainable growth is the objective for the medium-term development of the company. The following strategic measures are designed to help achieve this goal:
Strategy – the business segments
- Price-graded, attractive brands in the quality segment of the apparel market
as well as high-quality workwear under the Pionier Workwear brand
- Wholesale to physical retail stores, chain stores and department stores
- eCommerce with own online shops, multi-brand platforms and retailers’ online shops
- Mono-brand stores in some selected markets, especially in Eastern Europe
- DACH-countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland)
- Selected overseas markets, e.g. Canada
Innovative and fashionable high-quality menswear and workwear
The growth strategy
“New Tomorrow” – the largest performance programme in the company’s history
The fashion industry has found itself in a process of constant transformation in recent years. This transformation has been further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to fine-tune the company to new challenges and align its structures with the market requirements of today and tomorrow, Ahlers launched its most comprehensive strategic performance programme ever in January 2021. Under the motto “New Tomorrow”, the strategic orientation of our five brands underwent a major overhaul in the last financial year. Key components of the future strategy are the professional expansion of eCommerce activities and an innovative, independent brand message managed by each brand. The aim is to make our brands and products more desirable and centre the brand communication around the end consumer. For the company’s service areas, the main aim is to achieve not only a general reduction in costs but also more cost-efficient procurement, naturally in compliance with our strict Corporate Social Responsibility Principles. To increase internal and external transparency, efficient IT tools are being implemented.
Menswear with Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini, Otto Kern and Pioneer – high-quality workwear with Pionier Workwear
Ahlers is focused on menswear from the brands Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini, Otto Kern and Pioneer, and work clothing from Pionier Workwear. Over two thirds of sales are made in the premium market. We want to grow all of our brands nationally and globally in a profitable and sustainable manner.
The Pierre Cardin brand presence will be defined more strongly by the French designer brand’s rich heritage, in future. Pierre Cardin should be perceived as modern, well-dressed and progressive in the commercial premium market. Pierre Cardin’s wholesale activities will strengthen existing customer relationships and win new customers in Germany, Europe and Russia. The eCommerce business will also be expanded to the Eastern and Western European markets. Baldessarini goes back in time to 1969 Hollywood. The brand is brimming with joie de vivre, spontaneity and a yearning for freedom. Baldessarini offers unique products for customers of all ages, which scream confidence and have high standards when it comes to design, zeitgeist and value for money. Baldessarini aims to become an international leader in the luxury market. Shop-in-shops featuring total looks will be given greater emphasis in Europe and Russia with a new shopfitting concept and a focused collection. There will also be greater focus placed on category management. In addition, more energy will be devoted to digitalisation and social media interactions in order to increase sales and D2C brand awareness. The brand will also enter new markets in Europe and China in the future. Licensed products are being added gradually which complete the appeal of the range. Otto Kern is also focused on the acquisition of more licensees. Jeans and trousers sales are to be intensified especially with large customers.
In future, Pioneer Authentic Jeans will be present in the jeans & workwear market with the brand claim PIONEERS OF TOMORROW, and thus greatly expand its brand and consumer communication as a leading jeans and trousers specialist in consumer price ranges. It will become an all-encompassing lifestyle brand with its new range of tops and its capsule collections made up of innovative casual looks from the modern, urban Pionier range. We want to grow our wholesale activities at a national and global level, and increase our shop-in-shop space. Online trade will be expanded, mainly on market places and multi-brand sites. At Pionier Workwear, we want to focus on our strengths in the area of corporate wear and leasing with optimised brand and product communication, while reinforcing our position in technical trade as an innovative provider of work clothing.
Growth the wholesale business
For menswear, stationary specialist retail will remain an important channel despite declining market development. We want to increase turnover and visibility for our brands by marketing our products in branded spaces, pop-ups and shop-in-shops. We also want to improve space productivity by continually developing product supply processes for branded spaces. Partnership programmes, cooperation schemes and service quality are analysed and optimised on an ongoing basis. Besides the physical retail stores, the focus is placed on the online commerce activities of our wholesale customers.
Growth of the eCommerce activities
As a rapidly growing sales channel, eCommerce is of very high strategic importance. We are investing a great deal of staff capacity and capital in this ever-growing business area. Sales activities in the online wholesale business and access to online multi-brand platforms are very important here. We are also heavily focused on the establishment of relationships with additional online traders in Europe and the further internationalisation of the marketplace business. In addition, Ahlers operates three online shops with Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini and Pionier Workwear. We also intend to accelerate internationalisation in this area. As well as a being a vital sales channel, our online shops also act as shop windows for the brands. We want to continue our strong growth in eCommerce wholesale distribution, market places and our own online shops. This expansion will be supported by differentiated product range management, prominent brand placement, optimisation of the value proposition and efficient IT structures and tools.
Growth of own Retail operations
We will continue to develop the existing store concepts in our own retail and open additional partner stores selectively. Ahlers will place special strategic focus on monobrand stores for the premium brands Pierre Cardin and Baldessarini, which we prefer to operate with partners, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Growth of the international operations
With international sales revenues already accounting for as much as 46 percent of total sales revenues, Ahlers is a successful European player. By systematically expanding the local sales organisations, we aim to further increase our sales revenues in Europe. In doing so, we will primarily grow our business with wholesale partners but also selectively with our own stores and partner stores. Outside Europe we aim to grow our Baldessarini brand in the medium term.
Cost leadership in procurement and logistic processes
The optimisation of procurement and logistics is an ongoing challenge to the clothing sector. Ahlers is continuously working on the choice of suppliers as well as the logistic processes with the objective of optimising our quality, reliability, speed and procurement costs. We constantly review existing suppliers and suppliers countries with a view to ensuring a reliable, cost-efficient manufacturing organisation that meets our quality and social standards. Ahlers has successively switched its jeans procurement processes to full-package services and is now also switching the procurement processes for suits. As in the previous years, we have intensified our procurement in the favourably located southern Mediterranean region. Since 2019, all raw materials logistics and a growing share of the Group’s finished goods logistics have been managed out of Poland. Compliance with social standards remains a precondition for signing up suppliers and service partners.
Ongoing digitalisation projects to support the B2B activities
Ahlers takes advantage of technological progress and the related digital trends. Analysing customer needs and developing products and services meeting these needs is a great opportunity. Ahlers has initiated various digitalisation projects to support the future-oriented development of its business. Among other things, we continuously expand the automatic generation of after-sales offers for retail customers whose inventories we monitor electronically (EDI) and create virtual shelf extensions for retailers. Since August 2020, the Pierre Cardin and Pioneer brands have been present in a cloud-based B2B order area of a service provider enjoying an excellent reputation in the industry. Retailers can use this portal to place repeat orders digitally. Pionier Workwear is also providing a B2B shop for its customers, which will undergo development over the course of the next year. Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini and Pioneer will also provide their customers with product data and images through the cloud.