The thinking behind Bardot’s big transformation

The past 12 months in retail has seen a fair share of businesses go into voluntary administration across all parts of the industry — but it’s fair to say the fashion sector has been hit particularly hard.

Between Jeanswest, Tigerlily and Topshop, falling discretionary spend and the customer shift away from fast fashion and unsustainable supply chains have put a major strain on the sector, with the Christmas bushfire season and COVID-19 being icing on the cake.

Australian-born Bardot was one such brand that struggled and collapsed into voluntary administration in November 2019, subsequently closing all 72 stores and laying off the majority of its 800-odd staff members.

And though external parties were interested in picking up the Bardot license, that all changed when the broader impact of COVID-19 became apparent.

“Through the process of the voluntary administration, we attempted to restructure the business through a deed of company arrangement, but COVID put pain to some of our financing options and closed them down substantially,” Bardot chief executive Basil Artemides told Inside Retail.

Rather than let the business disappear, however, Artemides and founder and creative director Carol Skoufis decided to repurchase the right-sized brand and rebuild it into something closer to what they believe Bardot could be.

“Essentially, we came to the decision that rather than attempt to morph and restructure retail, we were going to go pureplay,” Artemides said.

“We can take a different direction now and focus on quality and more premium design. We’re excited to be continuing the Bardot story from that perspective.”

Closing doors opens doors

The decision was easy, something Skoufis and Artemides had considered before, and it has since opened up new doors for the business moving forward.

No rent will mean more capital to put into its products, for example, which Skoufis explains will be more premium and sustainable than Bardot has been able to create historically.

“Twenty years on from the brand’s beginning, it definitely needs some new DNA to reinvent itself for what the world is today. It’s a very different place,” Skoufis told IRW.

“I definitely don’t want to be in fast fashion at the moment – I haven’t been wanting to do that for a while, to be honest.”

And being pureplay will allow Bardot to more easily expand into other markets, with Artemides eyeing a jump to the North American market in the next three to four months.

“We have a very good business developing internationally… [we’ll] expand into the US with an e-commerce website and a focus on the US market, and off the back of that, our wholesale partners will give people the tactile experience of the brand,” Artemides said.

“We’re definitely focused on it.”

Bardot is already available in Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Saks in the US, and Artemides said the department stores had already contacted them to continue the relationship with a revitalised Bardot.

However, the business needs to recentre itself in the Australian market first, bringing a portion of its denim manufacturing to Melbourne and supporting the suppliers that have shown Bardot loyalty.

“The next year will be spent solidifying the brand locally. We want to make sure that our local customers know where we are,” Artemides said.

“When you’re a massive retailer like we are that’s been so focused on four walls, we haven’t had time to focus on our online as much as we’d like and we’ll have the opportunity to do that now.”

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