The merger of two digital wholesale industry leaders, LE NEW BLACK and COLECT, is set to redefine the landscape of European wholesale. Having already established offices in key fashion capitals like Paris, New York, and Amsterdam, the primary objective of the strategic manoeuvre is to expand the reach of both brands throughout Europe, encompassing regions like Italy and Spain. Additionally, it sets the stage to increase market penetration in the USA, with a strategy aimed to replicate previous successes.
With the aim of consolidating the B2B sales market, the merger brings renewed support to the two companies’ respective global communities of nearly 1,000 fashion and lifestyle brands of all sizes, and over 100,000 retailers. Among them, Colect’s portfolio contains global brands such as SuperDry, GANT, Marc O’Polo and Triumph, and LE NEW BLACK’s high fashion clientele includes Kenzo, Rimowa, and IKKS. While retaining their individual brand identities, both COLECT and LE NEW BLACK will unite their expertise and resources to enhance service for clients, providing the tools needed to foster their growth and success with an unwavering commitment to digital transformation. The merger also represents the union of two distinguished companies that partner closely with dedicated fashion ERPs to harness ERP-derived data, converting it into powerful digital sales experiences for brands.
“We want to bring digital wholesale to all brands, no matter their size,” states Arthur Hoffman, CEO of the newly formed entity. "LE NEW BLACK and COLECT share a common commitment: we are driven to empower brands with well-established wholesale strategies while also offering support to those seeking to grow their B2B sales. We provide the essential tools for digitalising their wholesale operations, ensuring brands thrive in today’s competitive digital landscape."
Embracing the Changing Landscape
However, the strategic move is far from just a corporate manoeuvre; it comes as a deliberate response to the complex challenges facing the industry. Pressures stemming from resource scarcity and changing consumer demands have pushed brands to prioritise sustainable sourcing and responsible value chains. As emerging economies flourish, the demand for responsible fashion remains strong, yet, consumer preference for both sustainability and affordability has created a complex dynamic. In this context, wholesale emerges as a vital solution for the fashion and lifestyle sectors. Strengthening brand-buyer relationships and ensuring sustainability become crucial. Wholesale platforms, including digital ones, assume a vital role in conveying these messages and structuring the evolving landscape.
“During and post-COVID, we have seen a clear digital acceleration in the B2B wholesale industry, embracing new virtual and hybrid ways of selling, and looking at reducing costs-to-serve,” Hoffman explains. “With the current inflationary pressures, we see brands focusing more on cost measures, working more efficiently, and optimising stock levels with their retailers. Our solutions support these needs by providing a more efficient digital way of selling, supported by data analytics, and self-service for retailers. For new clients, Colect recently introduced a free 3 month trial with dedicated ERP partners to lower the entry barriers and help brands experience these benefits, a try-out period at no cost and taking care of the technology integrations on their behalf.“
“During the past 15 years, wholesale has evolved from a classic SS/FW calendar with a typical fluctuation of preorders and reorders to a much more complex and diverse calendar with pre-collections, capsules and exclusive items, which now represent a significant part of the business. More recently, in addition to this calendar fragmentation, Covid has raised concerns regarding inventory levels, meaning that both brands and retailers now need to try harder to mitigate the risk of unsold items with various strategies and tradeoffs,” states Bernard Coulombel, Co-Founder and Technical Director of LE NEW BLACK. “These two trends have led to an increased need for brands to be agile in order for them to handle such a complex sales agenda. B2B platforms are now essential to maintain and nurture sales relationships but are also strategic to manage their wholesale lifecycle. COLECT and LE NEW BLACK both embody a culture driven by the desire to closely align with the unique requirements of fashion and lifestyle brands. This culture motivates them to understand emerging sales patterns and, subsequently, develop highly intuitive tools to effectively address these evolving patterns.”
Market dynamics also reveal that wholesale order management is largely digitised. However, the dominance of a network-focused approach that aggregates brands prioritizing its own network effect, highlights the potential for a business-focused strategy that enhances brand-buyer relationships. This is where the COLECT/LE NEW BLACK merger comes into play. The newly formed group aims to differentiate itself from its competition through its approach, fostering brand singularity and promoting private, well-defined environments for each brand.
Elevated Customer Experiences
“We believe the merger will benefit everyone involved,” states Hoffman. “We strive to be the trustworthy local tech partner to help fashion brands become more successful, and always have their best interests in mind.”
Reassuringly, for their existing clients, the merger will leave the operations of both firms largely unchanged. “The merger will not affect the operations of both companies in any significant way. Both COLECT and LE NEW BLACK have a strong presence in various international territories and will continue to operate as usual, with the same people, technology, and service that customers know and trust. With the merger we will have more resources, capabilities, and opportunities to serve all of our customers better and deliver more innovation, new features, and product enhancements in the near future,” explains Hoffman.
An Optimistic Vision Of The Future
Rooted in the shared values of propelling fashion and lifestyle brands towards digital success, the strategic collaboration also marks a significant step towards a brighter industry future. Hoffman elaborates, “We met 2 years ago for the first time in Paris where we planted the first seed for this merger. As you can imagine, merging a Dutch and French entity is not something you do overnight. Late last year, the discussion took real shape and the past few intense months gave us the opportunity to get to know each other’s businesses really well, see the synergistic value, align on the culture and future vision, and meet the teams. It gave us the right feeling and built the necessary trust to embark on this exciting new journey together.”