Ahlers AG is one of the leading manufacturers of fashionable menswear in Germany and Europe, including Russia. Ahlers produces modern, functional and sustainable high-quality menswear under four clearly defined brands in the mid and upper price segments. The business is to be strengthened and systematically expanded, with a focus placed on e-commerce. 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
- E-commerce 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 been changing for a few years and the pace of change has accelerated once again due to the influences of the coronavirus pandemic. To adjust the company precisely to the new trends and to align its structures with market requirements, Ahlers has launched the most comprehensive strategic performance programme in its history. Under the title “New Tomorrow”, the strategic positioning of each of our brands is to be individually readjusted in order to optimise the brand statement, the customer orientation and approach as well as the distribution channels. The professional expansion of the e-commerce business and innovative brand communication managed by the brands are essential elements of the strategy. The desirability of our brands and products is to be further increased and the end consumer to be reached directly. 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 focuses on menswear with its brands Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini, Otto Kern and Pioneer. We generate over two thirds of our revenues in the attractive premium segment of the fashion market. We intend to drive domestic and international growth through our Baldessarini and Pierre Cardin brands. The Pierre Cardin brand identity is sharpened using the unique brand heritage of the French designer brand. Contemporary, dressed in style and progressive – Pierre Cardin is to be perceived as a true designer brand in the premium commercial segment. We want to differentiate ourselves and develop a unique positioning through highly functional, innovative and sustainable products. The sales organisation of our Russian subsidiary intensifies existing customer relationships for Pierre Cardin, wins new customers and optimises the existing stores in Russia. We want to push ahead with the expansion of the other Eastern European and the Western European markets as well as the Europe-wide expansion of points of sale. Baldessarini’s casual and business apparel covers the upper premium segment of the market. The focus especially on the upper premium casual segment is consistently pursued. The good positioning in the European core markets is to be further expanded. Product groups in which we have special expertise, such as jeans, men’s items and ready-made clothing play an important role in this context. Licensed products extend the product range and increase the visibility of the brands. Otto Kern also focuses on winning additional licensees. Jeans and trousers sales are to be intensified especially with large customers.
In the Jeans & Workwear segment, we are consistently expanding the brand and consumer communication of the Pioneer Authentic Jeans brand as a leading jeans and trousers specialist in the mainstream price ranges. The brand also offers tops to expand consumers’ perception from a supplier of jeans to a holistic lifestyle brand. Domestically and internationally, we want to grow at specialist retailers and win additional shop-in-shop space. To this end, we are continuously refining our partnership schemes and space concepts. Online sales are to be expanded primarily on marketplaces and multi-brand formats. Specifically strengthened for the individual export markets, the collection is designed to boost our international business. At Pionier Workwear, we want to focus on our strengths in corporate wear and leasing with optimised brand and product communication.
Growth the wholesale business
Physical retail stores will still remain an extremely important sales channel for menswear despite the declining market. Revenue growth is to be achieved through sales of our products in branded shop-in-shop spaces which also have great significance in terms of gaining optimum brand exposure. Moreover, we pay special attention to improving sales revenues per square metre. At the same time, we continue to develop and improve our internal restocking and visual merchandising processes for the branded retail spaces. The partnership programmes, cooperation schemes and the 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 customers.
Growth of the e-commerce activities
The e-commerce channels is growing strongly and is therefore strategically very important. We are investing considerable human and financial resources in strengthening this growth segment procedurally. Priority is being given to sales activities in the online wholesale business and the connection to multi-brand online platforms. In this context, we are focusing on both e-commerce specialists and the e-commerce activities of the Wholesale-Partners. Another focus is being placed on winning additional online dealers in Europe and on the further internationalisation of the marketplace business. Ahlers moreover operates three online shops of the Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini and Pionier Workwear brands. These online stores equally serve as showcases for the brands and as important sales channels. We intend to strongly grow our activities in this important distribution channel for the clothing sector in the e-commerce wholesale segment, the marketplace business and our own online stores. This growth is to be supported by differentiated product range management, prominent brand placement, an optimised value proposition as well as efficient IT structures and tools.
Growth of own Retail operations
We will continue to develop the existing store concepts in our own retail and possibly open additional partner stores selectively. Ahlers strategically relies on mono-brand stores of the premium brands Pierre Cardin and Baldessarini, which we operate ourselves or with partners, primarily in Eastern Europe.
Growth of the international operations
With international sales revenues already accounting for as much as 43 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 retailers 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 and new locations and suppliers 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 and discontinued our own production in Poland in mid-2020. 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 digitisation 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. Our retailers can use this portal to digitally place top-up orders from the current seasons. Pierre Cardin, Baldessarini and Pioneer additionally supply their customers with product information and image material in a cloud-based format.