Driven by the simple idea of ‘Never Stop Learning’, this belief has guided GANT since 1949 when a shirtmaking company opened in the college town of New Haven, Connecticut. In this interview, RLI sits down with company CEO Patrik Söderström to speak about how the business has evolved in the last year and what its plans are for the future.
Born 72 years ago, GANT began with shirts and they still reinvent them to this day. Rich in legacy and history, it is the combination of company founder Bernard Gantmacher’s dedication to quality and his sons Marty and Elliot’s sense for style and business that has proved to be a winning formula.
Operating more than 600 stores across 81 countries, their retail portfolio is predominantly situated across China, Europe, the Middle East, Korea and India. Approximately 65 per cent of GANT is operated through its own subsidiaries with the remainder operated by its partners and distributors.
Despite the onset of Covid-19 and the unusual market conditions around the world, the business continues forward with the same key objectives, but they have instead focused on speeding up their digital roadmap.
“When the severity of Covid-19 was realised, we decided early on to focus on delivering our main targets from a consumer perspective, no matter how things changed around the world,” explains CEO Patrik Söderström.
“The ability of the leaders within our company to communicate, lead and get every team member to take an active part in managing the continuous new challenges that have arisen around the pandemic, and still deliver the best possible experience to the consumer is what has helped steer us through this time of adversity.”
Two key openings for the brand took place before the pandemic and launched at Boulevard St. Germain in Paris, whilst the other opened in the UAE at the Dubai Mall, so they are looking forward to seeing the reaction to them from customers as some level of normalcy begins to return. In addition to these two locations, the brand also launched sites in NorteShopping in Porto and one in Centar Kaptol in Zagreb.
For the time being moving forward, the main focus will be in China. At the beginning of the year they took over operations in China from their long-time distributor so that they could further grow the brand there, and they are looking to open many stores across the country in the next one to three years.
“We are always looking towards the future and we are close to signing new partnerships in a few new countries. However, with the recent operational acquisitions in both China and Spain, our main focus in the coming years will be to build a stronger presence and business in the countries we are currently present in,” explains Söderström.
A long standing international brand, the challenge for GANT is always to stay relevant to both new and loyal consumers. To continue to make this work, Söderström feels you always need to find a balance while staying true to your heritage and building for the future. They have a very clear view on how they see themselves, who they are and how they would like to be perceived.
“Our heritage, brand fundamentals, creative direction and brand plan in combination with a continuous dialogue with all of our markets is important. The work we do with consumer insight across the world is our way of getting the right products to the market,” he goes on to say.
Social media and influencers are very important to GANT. Their focus in the past year has been to create more influencer & social media-specific content in their key markets, where local early adopter expertise is crucial to reach new consumers. They will look to continue to grow their digital presence in 2021 by exploring new social media platforms so that they can continue to introduce their brand to a new audience.
Söderström feels you build loyal customers by staying true to your heritage, which is why he feels it can be hard for a brand to try and live up to expectations. “One of our key factors has been that we have continuously stayed true to ourselves and have delivered timeless and premium products that our consumers like and want to wear.”
The credo ‘Never Stop Learning’ is what describes GANT best, as the industry in which they work is under continuous change. The company understand you need to be humble about the fact that you don’t know it all, as well as being curious enough to find new ways to become better in every area you possibly can.
Their ability to deliver on their consumers expectations has been key to their success over the years. This is something that only be achieved with great teamwork, and they are blessed with a dedicated and passionate team that really know what it takes to go that extra mile.
“The challenge for us moving forward is always to change, develop and enhance the consumer experience to be relevant now and tomorrow. Right now developing “digital vs. physical” and everything that comes with finding the best omni-channel approach is what is highest on our agenda,” concludes Söderström.