Pavel Selepčíny, the
32-year-old co-owner of an emerging line of sports clothing, sits at a
conference table in a softly lit showroom, surrounded by racks laden with
a fresh batch of winter ski jackets, and attempts to define the spirit of
his Envy brand — young, independent-minded, active yet carelessly cool.
Envy’s parent company, the Ostrava-based Moravia Sport Group, entered
the market in 1995, looking to join the clothing-brand boom of the past
five years. But gaining a foothold in a highly competitive market is a
struggle to find the right strategy.
Finding a niche
Envy’s summer and winter
collections fill a niche between sports and fashion. The fusion results in
trendy lines of ski and snowboard jackets and pants, as well as casual
tees, bikinis and shorts for the summer collection. The designs closely
follow hot trends, which often arrive in the rather conservative Czech
market after a two-year delay.
Last season, Envy’s billboard campaign
was aimed at twenty-somethings, but the prices of its ski jackets —
between Kč 3,500 and Kč 10,000 — better matched the pocketbooks of Czechs
a decade older. “We commissioned a marketing study,” Selepčíny said. “The
core customers were 30-plus [years old].”
Spreading one of Envy’s
2004/ 2005 season top-price men’s ski jackets on a table, Selepčíny
enthusiastically pointed out a variety of smart features, such as sleeves
pre-shaped at the elbows, special pockets and soft material on the
collar’s lining that will not scratch a skier’s frozen face.
little details caught the attention of Jindřiška Dandová, an apparel buyer
for the Sportisimo chain. But Dandová said last winter’s Envy sales at
Sportisimo were low compared to those of its main competitors, Hannah and
One reason for this may have been price. Unlike other suppliers,
which usually allow a 50 percent markup, the Moravia Sport Group granted
retailers the western standard of 100 percent, said Martin Zavadil,
managing director of the Drapa Sport chain. This step elevated Envy’s
prices above the amount most Czechs are willing to dole out for a ski
jacket. According to Vladislav Fedoš, a partner at a more familiar
low-priced label called Alpine Pro, an average Czech is willing to spend
only Kč 2,000 to 5,000 on such items.
But Selepčíny disagrees. “We
were almost the last ones to bring jackets [to the market] because we had
production troubles in China. Despite that, we were left with only 500 out
of tens of thousands,” he said. The expensive Kč 8,000-plus items
comprised only 15 percent of all ski-jacket sales last season, he said.
And now, the company is improving its inexpensive collections — the
segment dominated by its competitors — to attract more youthful buyers. It
introduced Berquille, a made-by-Envy label that offers a ski jacket and
pant set for around Kč 3,000.
Seeking brand identity
Selepčíny said Envy’s
marketing efforts — including billboard campaigns, radio ads and the
sponsorship of ski-school instructors and extreme-sports enthusiasts —
have cost at least Kč 20 million since the brand’s conception. But most
Czech consumers, including five interviewed for this story, have still
never heard of the brand.
Nor did Envy ring a bell among a
representative sample of 1,000 Czech households polled for Fashion Market
2003, a shoe-and-apparel market poll conducted by Incoma Research, a
market survey firm. Incoma’s Martina Drtinová said in general, Czechs do
not do well with brand recognition. “They could only name Adidas, Nike,
Puma, Hi-Tec and Reebok. Nothing else,” she said.
end of the year, Envy will be sold in 17 brand-name stores — in addition
to the sporting chains — in the Czech and Slovak Republics and Estonia.
The brand is also exported to dealers in about a dozen European countries.
The company’s sales in the Czech Republic, at Kč 199 million in 2003,
are in the range of those of its more well-known competitor, Alpine Pro.
Selepčíny said turnover at branches in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary
reached an additional Kč 100 million last year. Overall sales of the
market leader, Plzeň-based Hannah, were “over 500 million” for the same
period, according to a company spokesman.
Selepčíny and Marcel Konečný, 33, have known each other since they were
seven years old. In the early 1990s, the two friends opened a small
general sporting store in Ostrava. In 1995, they added the distribution of
western brands and within two years broke into the business of producing
clothes for other clients.
By 1999, “we told
ourselves we could do it on our own,” Selepčíny said.
Michal Schoffer contributed with reporting from
limited liability company equally divided between Pavel Selepčíny and
TYPE OF COMPANY: Sports
CURRENT NUMBER OF
EMPLOYEES: 100 at branches throughout the Czech Republic, Poland,
Slovakia and Hungary
MAIN COMPETITORS: Hannah, Alpina
THE ELEVATOR PITCH: Envy is an emerging
producer of sports apparel seeking ways of succeeding in a highly
competitive and growing market
Zachovalová, 18. 10. 2004 |