Royal Mer is taking advantage of the Made in France wave – Le Journal des Entreprises – Loire-Atlantique

Royal Mer’s participation in the made in France fair last November in Paris had symbolic value for this company from Ille-et-Vilaine, which was able to rise from its ashes in 2016, when Hervé Coulombel, and his brother Roland, bought it from the Commercial Court of Nantes. “At the time, we took over 45 employees out of the 55, and today we are 70, specifies the president of this brand which manufactures and makes sailor sweaters, pea coats, hats, dresses and coats at La Regrippière, in the heart of the Nantes vineyard, a stone’s throw from Clisson. And if you find me 10 seamstresses, I’ll hire them tomorrow.”

Created in 1946, filed for bankruptcy in 2015, Royal Mer, after the storm of the 2000s when textiles imported from China and elsewhere wiped out the French clothing manufacturing industry, is experiencing an upturn. “Made in France is in tune with the times, summarizes Hervé Coulombel. For the 2021-2022 financial year, our turnover is 5 million euros, and we anticipate growth of 20%, at 6 million euros for next year.”

Royal Mer sells 60,000 pieces a year, and the brand is now distributed in 200 points of sale in France, compared to 70 when the company took over in 2016. “We mainly resell to multi-brand stores. Our store factory, which adjoins our manufacturing workshops, here at La Regrippière (Loire-Atlantique), accounts for 15% of our turnover, and our e-commerce site, which is only 3 years old, accounts for only 3% of sales. We also have three own shops, in Dinard (Ille-et-Vilaine), where our head office is located, one in La Baule, and another in Pont-Aven (Finistère). Retail is another job and requires a lot of resources, it’s not something we want to develop.”

Head to Japan

Conversely, export is in the sights of the company. “We are exporting 10% to Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, and today we are attacking the Asian market, Japan first. Export is part of our development strategy. We have just returned from a show in Tokyo. Foreigners are more fond of made in France than the French themselves. It’s an interesting outlet, which allows us to sell at a good price. The Japanese are attached to made in France, a symbol of quality, knowledge -do and image.”

Another aspect of Royal Mer’s strategy is to develop subcontracting. “A quarter of our activity is subcontracting for brands like Agnès B, TBS, Sézane… All these brands have one thing in common: they want to have a capsule made in France in their collection, because it’s trendy. . For us, it’s interesting, because it helps to feed the production tool.” A production tool that has 30 knitting machines turning in 2 eights, and which could go to 3 eights, if orders were to increase.

Call for outside stylists

Another advantage put in place: a refresh of the brand and two new collections per year. “We brought creativity and modernity, calling on outside stylists.” But Royal Mer’s know-how remains its main asset, because it is rare. “In France, companies that are capable of making the type of products that we make, there are not ten, says the manager. These are trades that have almost disappeared, killed by Asian competition in particular, believes the manager, who adds: “our difference, compared to the clothing companies which assemble the pieces of fabric provided to them by the big fashion houses, is our business: knitwear. We buy our raw material, the threads, in wool, in cotton, which we knit. We manufacture our fabrics. And we work exclusively with Italian spinners, who have kept this know-how that there is no longer in France.” Recently, Royal Mer has diversified by offering a 100% French sports sneaker : “The upper, in fabric, the upper, is knitted here, and the assembly with the sole is done at the Shoe Factory in Mauges-sur-Loire (Maine-et-Loire).”

The limits of made in France

However, the made in France has its limits, that of the cost of labor. “30% of the production is outsourced, specifies Hervé Coulombel. In Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland. We stay in Europe. When the assembly time of parts is very long, there are a lot of finishes and details, as on a dress or a coat, the labor cost of a product becomes too high and, for a product claimed to be made in France, it no longer passes at the level of the price. In addition is now added to the cost of labor, the rising cost of energy. Royal Mer’s electricity bill will indeed increase from 36,000 to 140,000 euros between 2022 and 2023. For the textile manufacturer, the consequence is obvious: “We will be forced to increase our prices by 10 to 15%, hoping that it will pass with our resellers.”

For the rest, Hervé Coulombel keeps optimism firmly anchored. “Today we have a history, tools, skills, quality products. Our main challenge now is our reputation. We need to make the Royal Mer brand better known.”

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