What are the biggest lessons, from your experience in distribution, that you would like to get across to young students today?

Obviously, distribution is a key element in any brand strategy and business plan. It cannot be overlooked and it needs to be very well taken care of. You can have the best possible product, but if you don’t have the right stores to sell it, it’s not going to fly. The students need to understand that, no matter the function that you will have in the brands, whether it’s e-commerce, whether it’s logistics, they need to understand the distribution network and they need to spend as much time as possible, working on distribution networks.

If you look at successful groups and successful people and I’m going to talk about Bernard Arnault there, he spends a lot of his time walking shopping malls and department stores, including over the weekend. He spends a lot of time in the stores, because this is where it happens. Don’t underestimate the amount of time that you need to invest, understanding the distribution networks. Your own distribution networks but also, competitor’s distribution networks, because there are plenty of bottlenecks. You need to put the right teams, the right strategies in place, to solve these issues and to be able to overcome the difficulties.

In terms of distribution networks, first of all, look around and understand your strategy and say, how do I apply this strategy onto my distribution network? I want to be next to Chanel, but everybody wants to be next to Chanel, so it’s not going to be possible for me, so how do I overcome that difficulty? Who do I target as a brand to be able to be around my brand, to build a good brand equity? Applying your understanding and the management’s understanding of their vision of the brand, to your distribution channels is very important.

Also, having the right people. It’s like any other function in the brand. It’s having the right staff and, beyond the right staff, they need to understand what you are trying to do. So spend a lot of time explaining, explaining, explaining. You can have the most qualified staff, working the best possible package, but if he or she doesn’t know what they have to do, it’s not going to work. Really, that exchange, day after day. An exchange is not about me talking and the other one saying yes. But really having an exchange.

What are the biggest mistakes you’d advise us to avoid?

Shortcuts. Saying that, this is going to work everywhere. It worked in London; my friends love it; I know that I have the vision in the countries that they don’t understand, but I’m going to do it my way. Many, many times, people with very strong beliefs and lack of empathy and flexibility have failed. Sometimes, in big ways, with strong brands and strong products, because there is no opportunity and no willingness to share and explain their vision.

So no shortcuts, really exchange, make sure that your own teams and your partners, they know and understand what you are trying to do. Because if they don’t, they’re not going to deliver, believe me.

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