Balibaris appoints Julien Schneider as CEO
A digital specialist is taking over the French premium menswear brand Balibaris. Julien Schneider, who for the past two years has been Lacoste’s vice president of retail and digital in North America, has been appointed CEO of the brand as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.
The 40-year-old executive, who refers to himself as Balibaris' "typical customer" succeeds Nathalie Haddad, who had held the position since 2017 but will remain an advisor and shareholder in the company. The brand’s founder, Paul Szczerba, will keep directing the label’s design.
The new position is quite a radical change for Schneider. He left a group with annual sales of more than two billion euros for a company that, through its online sales and 60 points-of-sale, aims to break the 50 million euro barrier.
“It's particularly exciting for me," explained the executive. “In my professional career, I have been an entrepreneur twice. I launched a start-up at the beginning of my career that I sold four years later. My previous experiences were in big brands with international challenges, but I like the realities and local presence of a brand like Balibaris, especially since it is currently in full expansion.”
The CEO, seduced by Paul Szczerba and the Experienced Capital Partners fund (a shareholder of the brand), will bring his vision and expertise he acquired in larger enterprises to the brand. His mission as a digital specialist who led Lacoste’s retail and digital operations in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020 will be to develop the label’s omnichannel.
"This came as an opportunity for me to interact with issues involved in the store teams and the end customer. This was a missing component in my omnichannel expertise," he explained.
And what better place to learn about this than in the United States? Before that, the 40-year-old manager had a background mainly related to online commerce. After selling his start-up in 2007, he joined Pixmania as European sales director and developed the online retailer's marketplace. After working for CSI France, Lebara Mobile and France Billet, Julien Schneider joined Fnac (headed by Alexandre Bompard) to oversee the company’s online ticketing system and to revamp the company's online site through implementing an e-commerce strategy on various markets.
Once Thierry Guibert took over the management of Lacoste, he recruited Schneider and entrusted him with the digital operations of the brand. He went on to develop its omnichannel between 2016 and 2019. The executive explained that "omnichannel was 6-7% in 2016. It was 35% at the end of 2021. I have also deployed a group-wide digital strategy in 120 different countries, inspired by the highly developed digital culture in Japan, China and especially South Korea."
“Julien Schneider is a new asset for our brand," explained Szczerba, founder of Balibaris. “His expertise in e-commerce will allow Balibaris to develop a tailor-made omnichannel strategy, adapted to its specificities and history. It's not just a question of reaching a turning point, but of fully embracing this now unavoidable path.”
Balabaris’ issues are, of course, not the same as at Lacoste, but with the director's wide range of expertise, he must push a digital-oriented approach into all aspects of the company. Today, the brand's omnichannel commerce represents more than 10% of its turnover, but its ambition "to become a reference of omnichannel experience in menswear" is high.
In order to do this, the newly appointed CEO aims to develop digital solutions to satisfy customer needs such as the use of tablets in boutiques, offering different types of physical and digital payment options, allowing hybrid order fulfillments in-store through one single invoice, expand stock unification, strengthen the quality of ship from store services, among other implementations.
“An advantage is that I’m familiar with the partners we work with, such as Shopify or Cegid, and know that all the fundamentals are in place," explained the executive. “We will be able to have very sustainable development solutions, with first implementations in April. I want to move quickly to offer solutions to our customers as soon as possible.”
Throughout 2022, these developments should equip the brand with the tools necessary to deploy its projects at a greater scale in the coming years, in menswear and now also womenswear, with the launch of its female offering in October 2021.
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