Inside Retail: Can you explain a bit about Scotch & Soda’s expansion plans this year and the thinking behind these locations, particularly those beyond Europe?
Stéphane Jaspar: Scotch & Soda has evolved from being a wholesale-only and Netherlands-focused company into a leading international omnichannel player in less than a decade. Today we operate in 70 countries through a fully integrated multichannel distribution model, with retail, e-commerce and wholesale channel operations.
We are now entering the next chapter of our expansion, which is very exciting, with an acceleration of the internationalisation process. As the brand and its universal values resonate in growing parts of the world, we believe we can serve them better by creating a new in-store experience and developing a stronger one-on-one customer relationship.
As a key step of this process, we are opening stores in Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia Pacific.
IR: How are you planning to grow the brand in Asia Pacific?
SJ: We are projecting an active expansion phase in Asia Pacific in particular, starting with a store in Mumbai, India, in April this year, adding to our existing seven stores in the country.
We are also thrilled to be opening our first showroom in Shanghai and develop the brand in China, where the long-term consumer market trend remains positive. China’s middle-class consumers, and especially the young generation, are constantly looking for brands that offer a good balance between price, design and quality. Scotch & Soda’s unique brand identity, which celebrates the power of self-expression and the free spirit of Amsterdam, as well as our modern everyday wardrobe combining functionality and unique details, should resonate well in the Chinese market.
We will continue our expansion in Australia in October, with a new store opening in Perth in the Karrinyup shopping mall. This will follow the openings of our first store in Auckland, New Zealand, in June last year, and that of our store at the Calile Hotel in Brisbane, Australia, last September.
This will be an addition to our 13 stores in Australia and New Zealand, and to our 10 stores in Asia.
IR: Are there particular regions or markets where the shop-in-shop model is more successful for the brand?
SJ: Our shop-in-shop locations are an important addition to our presence in Europe (in particular in Benelux, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and Eastern European countries), as well as in the United States.
IR: Why is Scotch & Soda’s brand identity important for the business?
SJ: Our intention behind creating a new identity was to unify the brand’s architecture under one identifiable Scotch & Soda brand, in order to make our storytelling clearer and stronger.
Scotch & Soda was launched as a men’s fashion brand, and later on, several other categories were added, including collections for women and kids with different names and logos.
We have modernised our brand icon and brought a new life and movement into it. The new brand logo enhances the symbol of unity at the heart of Scotch & Soda’s name, which represents the free spirit of Amsterdam, the city where the brand was born. It evokes the delicate movement of a thread attached to the eye of a needle, as a tribute to the craftsmanship that goes into our collections, as well as to our expertise, in particular regarding our premium denim line named after our iconic denim line, “Amsterdams Blauw”.
The new identity embodies Scotch & Soda’s design ethos of connecting the expected with the unexpected, celebrating the power of self-expression and liberal thinking of Amsterdam, and this spirit is translated into our collections.
IR: Can you explain a bit about the ‘Free Spirit’ store concept and what you’re hoping to achieve with that?
SJ: Our new “Free Spirit” store concept is a tribute to the liberal thinking of Amsterdam, and it is designed to celebrate the power of self-expression and inclusiveness that is embodied by Scotch & Soda’s native city.
Our stores are all unique, blending the original architecture and characteristics of each building with Scotch & Soda’s signature design. Under the new concept, our stores will be more welcoming and will feature lighter colours in an effort to bring a more positive vibe and shopping experience.
A good example of this new direction is our new store in the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, (also known as Den Bosch), opening this month. It will be our largest store worldwide, spreading over three floors and offering all of our collections. Created as a social as well as retail space for the whole family, it will feature a dedicated fitting room, where kids will be encouraged to get creative with an art wall and laughing mirrors, as well as a bespoke bar serving complimentary soft drinks to our customers.
IR: What have been the key learnings for the brand on its sustainability journey?
SJ: We realise that most of the impact comes from the materials we use. That is where our main focus is at the moment in terms of improving our sustainability efforts.
We aim to improve season after season. For the current Summer 2021 season, 41 per cent of all styles across all lines meet our responsible materials standard of 20 per cent use of responsible material by item. Our aim will be to increase this, so that 70 per cent of styles to be made by early 2024 will meet such standards.
From the Summer 2022 collection onwards, Scotch & Soda will be increasing the responsible standard of materials used to a minimum of 50 per cent of these materials. These are certified fibres that are organic, recycled, regenerative or renewable from a biological or technical source, such as organic cotton, recycled polyester or Econyl, except in the use of recycled cotton, in which our threshold is 20 per cent to ensure that we maintain the durability and quality of the fabric as the fibres of recycled cotton are shorter.