Small stop in the Vendee for Emmanuel Macron, on 19 August, with a visit to the furniture Gautier. The Express has just met with the leaders of this thriving company, which has managed to overcome crises and impose itself on the international.
Thanks to their image of "Stylish French Living", the furniture Gautier is selling on four continents. Whether in Algiers, Seoul, Riyadh, Novosibirsk or Ulan-Bator, the franchisees are supplied by the three plants vendéennes of the company. After overcoming several crises, it derives its growth from the export, which earned him a Blow to the heart of The Express train in 2015. Back on a family saga.
Gautier has had several lives", likes to tell David Soulard, ceo of this trademark of contemporary furniture, and nephew of the founder, Patrice Gautier. In the 1960's, this cabinet-maker in the vendée is developing her own small business, buying back tens of SMES : the baby boom and the emergence of the consumer society helping, Gautier became the French leader of the child's bedroom.
The company reached its peak in the 1980s, until the second oil shock and the arrival of the international giants of the cabinet - Ikea-in-head - will push the sales. "The company was not structured to pass through such a storm," says David Soulard : she has filed for bankruptcy twice, in 1983 and 1985."Your support is essential. Subscribe for $ 1 support Us
In the bocage of the vendee, the failure of the largest private employer is a real drama. "We kept a keen sense of our social responsibility," says David Soulard, adding, for the record, that in order to avoid "putting families at risk, we have made it a rule not to hire couples in our three factories in La Roche-sur-Yon, Saint-Prouant and Chantonnay, which employ 950 people."
The second life of Gautier begins en1985 with its acquisition by the holding company Séribo (Society of achievements and étudespour the industrial wood), "who maintains my father Dominic to the management and invests heavily to industrialize the activity and develop the company," recalls David Soulard. Until the death of the founder of Séribo, thirteen years later : "My father is so opposed to the new shareholders, who have siphoned off the dividends and continued to invest." Sanction is immediate : Dominique Soulard is landed from his post of director general on 7 September 1999.
"And there, it happened a crazy thing : the 800 employees went on a general strike to demand the reinstatement of their boss!" After thirteen days of arm-twisting, Dominique Soulard finds its position and the industrial Didier Pinault-Valenciennes is appointed referee to find a way out of the conflict. He then decides to grant six months to the family Soulard to find the 150 million euros necessary for the recovery of the company.
A true "Gautierthon" is committed to all the family of friends and supporters. "We have them all refunded and then made three LBO successive to boost development," explains David Soulard.
Ten openings per year
The new life of Gautier begins with the twenty-first century : it is placed under the sign of the family, of the franchise and export. Dominique, the father, now president, surrounds himself with his four children, David (engineer in training) at the directorate-general and Valerie export. The first store franchise opens in La Rochelle, france, in 2005. Eleven years later, the network has 57 points of sale in France, 50 across the world including three stores and 104 franchises) and grows at the rate of ten openings per year. Recent inaugurations have been held in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Batumi (Georgia), Bahrain, Algiers, algeria and Ulan-Bator (Mongolia). That is to say, if the expression "around the world" is not hackneyed : Gautier is present directly or indirectly in over 65 countries on four continents : the brand book every day, 8000 furniture designed and manufactured in the Vendée.
Priority to emerging market countries
Its strategy for export is for the least original : "We are interested above all in the emerging countries, where a part of the population has the means and inclination to buy contemporary furniture French", explains Valérie Soulard-Strand breaks. "All emerging countries, except the BRIC's !, added David : in India, China or Brazil, the local entrepreneurs always end up wanting to produce it themselves."
Gautier has been the bitter experience in India in the 1990s : "Our partner has opened 80 stores... in which there was not a single piece of furniture Gautier ! We had a terrible time to retrieve the mark." From this misadventure, the Soulard will keep a good memory :"The expression "Stylish French Living", found by our indian partner, has become our signature internationally."
Complicit in gaiety and curiosity, Valerie and David "brainstorment regularly every two" to define their strategy, export, keeping an eye on the international press and the other on the tourist guides : "Our taste of the export is related to our love of travel, of sharing and discovery," says David. "The purchase of furniture is eminently cultural, says Valerie. Our furniture come in the privacy of our customers as we enter in the intimacy of the family of our partners."
Ethiopia in the line of fire
The failure of implantation in indian has made them more vigilant in the choice of their partners : they favor local contractors or binational able to invest 100000 euros in a first point-of-sale, and then, perhaps, to open one or two more if the market allows. "But in most of the emerging countries, there is little place for one or two stores," explains Valérie Soulard-Strand breaks. We are interested in, this time at the Ethiopia and Nicaragua : it is clear that we will open 10 outlets !"
No question, however, is to go to Iran : "everybody street, as in Venezuela, ten years ago," says David Soulard. Today, while the economy of venezuela has collapsed, we welcome not been there." Not only the economic take-off of Iran seems to be subject to many uncertainties geopolitical, but "The Iranians are excellent manufacturers of furniture !"
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Original in Africa and Asia, their policy export is also the case in developed countries. Gautier will soon open its first store in New York : "But not in Manhattan, warns David Soulard. We are not ready yet ! We prefer to attack the Big Apple per Brooklyn, with partners of Russian origin who want to enjoy strong brand awareness in the Russian community, which is very important in this borough of New York."
Flight without return to Dubai
similarly, Sandrine and Pierre Casinelli discovered, opening a store Gautier in Dubai, as the brand was known and appreciated "of many western expatriate, of course, but also of the indian community." These partners have an atypical profile for the sign : hotel in the south of France, they have had the desire, to return from holiday to Dubai, to try the adventure of business creation in this new eldorado of shopping. "Gautier, I didn't even know what it was," said Abigail, laughing. And as we knew nothing about the furniture, I admit to have been very moderately packed when my husband's income Franchise Expo, saying that he had found the sign that we need to..."
in order To convince them, Peter Casinelli takes very quickly the wife to visit the point of sale of Avignon. The couple then goes to the Milan furniture fair to meet with leaders of Gautier. Shot of love. It was April, 2012 : during the summer, the couple and their teenage son took a flight back to Dubai. In November, their store of 350 square meters was opened in the neighbourhood of the furniture located on the Sheikh Zayed Road. Today, the franchisees do not exclude to open a second point of sale in Dubai : "The international situation does not lend itself necessarily, but the prospect of expo 2020 is tempting !"
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If the choice of spouse Casinelli is atypical for Gautier, it is because the sign generally prefer to expand with local partners. But its leaders have found in these entrepreneurs what they are looking for in the first place : "The energy, the fire in their eyes and the feeling," says Valerie Strand-Soulard, director export, which claims his temperament is instinctive. "Anyway, when doing the export, this is not worth it to build long-term plans," observed her brother, David. It is better to be agile and adapt to changes in economic and geopolitical increasingly difficult to anticipate." If one refers to the 10 % growth displayed by Gautier and export, we can only give him reason.