Veja appoints Laure Browne as general manager
Fifteen years after starting eco-responsible sneaker line Veja, French entrepreneurs Sébastien Kopp and Ghislain Morillion have appointed a general manager to run the company. Laure Browne will be in charge of Veja’s staff of about 120 people, operating in France and Brazil.
Browne, 54, is an experienced manager who has worked for major international corporations. Before joining Veja a few weeks ago, she spent two years at Auchan Retail, where she was international brand director. Between 2012 and 2016, Browne was in charge of marketing and communication at SFR and FNAC-Darty. Before then, she was the operational general manager at Nocibé, between 2008 and 2012, and marketing and communication director at Marionnaud, from 2005 to 2008.
Veja’s business is smaller than that of these groups, the company having generated a revenue of €34 million in 2018, and €20 million the year before. “Company size has never been a factor for me. I wanted [a company] whose social and ethical values were truly at the heart of the business. There is a difference between companies that make products and then tack a story on to them, and those that have a project, and find the right product to fulfil it,” said Browne.
Browne’s high-level managerial experience should enable Veja to realise its goals for the current year (for which Browne expects healthy double-digit growth once again), but especially to gear up for exploiting the brand’s international potential.
Veja’s main markets are the USA and the UK, ahead of France and Benelux. The brand is present in 1,800 stores in 45 countries. Browne's remit is to tap this potential and also, as Veja stated in a press release, “to support the two founders strategically and operationally, as well as to help the development of Veja’s young talents.”
Kopp and Morillion remain the owners of Veja, and want to continue to grow the company through self-financing, while also dealing with day-to-day operations. “We are a trio with a high level of complementarity,” said Browne. “Our aim isn’t to push for boundless sales growth. We want to sell the right amount. We try to calibrate orders and minimise inventory. If we grow steadily, consistently with our sourcing capacity, we will ensure long-term performance.”
Veja is looking for senior managers in the logistics field, but is also keen to rely on its own strengths and on its existing staff, which has been instrumental in growing the company for many years, in order to continue to expand. Browne is also tasked with nurturing the company's skill set, introducing operational procedures and fostering the promotion of Veja as a brand. “This doesn't mean a price hike. It means working on the brand's values, managing its image, upgrading its presence in-store, ensuring that it doesn’t fall within a highly promotional environment,” said Browne. She also mentioned the possibility of installing dedicated sections within multibrand stores. Browne’s knowledge of the retail world could be a major asset in negotiating with retailers and department stores. In France, Veja currently operates retail corners at Citadium and Galeries Lafayette. Eventually, a monobrand store could also be on the cards. “We are already busy with several new product launches for the autumn. We are used to presenting our projects when they have been finalised,” said Browne.
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