July 4, 2022

These SMEs which boost their turnover thanks to digital

Stéphane Rostaing, CEO of Rostaing.

The European and French economic fabric is changing. Small businesses that had few digital-related projects now intend to develop new digital solutions and invest in remote work.

208 billion dollars. This is the prediction made by the Cisco study in June 2020 as to the expected increase in French GDP thanks to digital transformation by 2024. This confirms that the small structures that had resisted until then finally decided that they had no other choice but to move forward resolutely. The Twilio global study also estimates that the health crisis has accelerated the universe of digital communication and customer experience for French companies by 6.7 years. The proof with these three French jewels in full growth thanks to a strategic digital shift.

Rostaing gloves: spotlight on innovation

We are not talking about sewing gloves here, but professional and technical gloves. Excuse the little, but the story actually began in a tannery founded in a revolutionary year, 1789. Gardening, DIY, public works, security are the udders of this company, which knew better than to resist the multiplication of the competetion. The main reason for this is the strategy of constant innovation that has been pursued for years. It has thus entered the field of security with products intended for police and firefighters and received numerous awards for the technicality of its products. These awards shed light on this French company, located in Ain and Morocco. A division, now totally independent from French society, was also created in Vietnam several decades ago.

After 1789, 2021. Another revolutionary year for Rostaing, that of digital. Sales have become omnichannel, products can be purchased in stores, online on its site or on e-commerce sites. And this will take a new turn thanks to the purchase of a dedicated software package which will greatly facilitate this new policy. Half a million euros will be devoted to new digital tools as well as to the essential training of company personnel. Stéphane Rostaing, the 6th generation manager, was not afraid of this shift which will take him until the end of 2022. It must be said that the company ticks all the boxes for growth, and its CEO is type hyperactive. As part of his mandate as departmental president of Medef, he also insisted on the essential role played by innovation and communication, whatever the size of the company.

Blinds and Curtains: the digital age

Blinds and Curtains, a company from Eure-et-Loir, a specialist in the home decoration sector, has for years based its activity on a professional target. Towards the end of the 90s, the company created its website, but without this becoming a strategic avenue. Stéphane Beretti became the owner of the company in 2006. This telecoms and electronics professional who started at Hatari does not really know the manufacture of curtains, but has solid technological experience. This asset will quickly be put to use, because the 2008 crisis hit SMEs hard, which sees its sustainability engaged. A reflection is initiated and from 2011, Stéphane Beretti decides to launch the company on a new target, that of the general public. To do this, a global internet policy has been put in place, which has required great efforts to adapt the staff, who are already scalded by the previous difficulties.

“People first and foremost” is the mantra of the leader. It took a shift from a culture of “fear” in her own words, especially the understandable fear of losing her job, to a culture of the will to move forward. To achieve this, the support of all to change certain well-established habits was essential. In reality, the website was not only used to highlight products, it also highlighted work and employees. “We are in a country which is quite anxious, sometimes for no reason, but here, this change has removed a concern, this side has disappeared and the atmosphere is much better”.

The French began to buy much more than usual to improve their interior, causing a nice increase in the turnover of the Beauceronne company. Growth of 18% for Blinds and Curtains, which confirmed Stéphane Beretti, president of the group that owns Sodiclair, in his decision to pursue his choices. This increase reflects the growth in sales made to individuals in France and abroad, thanks to regular annual investments of around one million euros, reaching 200,000 customers. Digital marketing has borne fruit, and the rest followed: order taking, stocks, logistics, manufacturing, purchasing, the entire chain is automated.

This year, the continuation of the program is the pursuit of the digitalization of customer relations and the purchase of new machines. A modernization which also goes in the direction of employment with the creation of more than thirty jobs for a manufacture made in France representing 12 million in 2020, and 22 planned in 2025.

La Redoute: a good textbook case

When we talk about digitization policies, it is difficult to miss the real adventure experienced by La Redoute, a company in great difficulty which has not only been able to come out on top, but also bounce back in its market thanks to to a very proactive policy of modernization. 88 million losses, it was the horrible observation of the leaders of the company in 2013, a liner company that was fleeing from all sides despite a loyal and numerous clientele. It had grown old, this Redoubt with its enormous catalog of 1000 pages distributed throughout the country. However, there was the creation of one of the first internet shops in 1999, but we do not change the core business, nor the culture of a company with a wave of a magic wand. La Redoute’s specialty lay in three letters: mail order, mail order.

Faced with the imminent disaster, the company will find its salvation: it was bought in 2014 by Nathalie Balla and Eric Courteille. The new leaders are making strong decisions that will pay off within four years. We will have to modify this C, this correspondence which will take on another aspect. Website, m-commerce, customizable application, marketplace reviewed and corrected with partner vendors, La Redoute is entering a new world, without abandoning the “hard”. It has therefore counted on the creation of stores under the “La Redoute” and “AM.PM” brands. This effort was not the only one, the upheaval was total. The offer has gone from two annual collections to eight, with a more modern positioning.

Online chats are created, artificial intelligence analyzes customer data, a new warehouse is born, in short, the company has definitely moved into the 21st century. Results of these colossal efforts: 90% of turnover is generated online, especially via smartphones. The catalog has not completely disappeared even though it has lost weight. Even more than technology, it is organizational transformations, new functions and new digital skills that are profoundly transforming La Redoute. A challenge in a company where many employees are also shareholders.

On August 31, 2017, the Galeries Lafayette group acquired La Redoute, a name that has become economically attractive again. What to see the future under more serene auspices, even if the work continues in the face of foreign behemoths. A success that the group as a whole can be proud of.

A.F.