French brand ba&sh going places

Rupkatha Bhowmick

Fifteen years ago, best friends from high school Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief decided to set up a business together. Boccara, a PR specialist, and Krief, a lawyer, had no formal training in retail but felt ready to take a leap of faith to establish a fashion brand. In 2003, they launch ba&sh, combining the first initials of their names.

The brand was carefully nurtured and responsibly evolved. In 2015, L Capital – the private equity subsidiary of LVMH – acquired a 50% stake in the French ready-to-wear brand. The very next year, in 2016, ba&sh entered the Middle East in partnership with regional partner Al-Futtaim. The first store opened in Dubai at City Walk in October that year, followed by four more stores in the region.

In the Middle East, the initial plan was to set up the first ba&sh store in The Dubai Mall. But City Walk happened faster. “We occupy a prime location in City Walk, adjacent to brands like Michael Kors, Galleries Lafayette and Maje. Soon after City Walk, we opened a store in Al-Futtaim’s Dubai Festival City Mall,” shared Camille Maquin, head of international partnerships & wholesale for ba&sh.

Two more ba&sh stores have come up in the UAE, located in Dubai Marina Mall and a shop-in-shop within Galleries Lafayette at The Dubai Mall. Beyond the UAE, the brand is already present in Saudi Arabia at Red Sea Mall, Jeddah; City Centre Bahrain in Bahrain; and Doha Festival City in Qatar.

“Going forward, we have a multichannel expansion plan globally and in the Middle East,” Maquin stated. “Three years ago, only 2% of our sales came from online. Today it is 10%, which happened by expanding the channels – click-and-collect, reserve online and try in-store, artificial intelligence features on the website. That’s why multichannel growth is crucial. On the brick-and-mortar side, our model is to operate small but productive stores – on an average between 750-and-970 sqft, going up to 1,600-2,150 sqft in case of flagships – with high conversion rate and repeat footfall. It has proved to be a financially effective model for ba&sh, because the capital expenditure and rent are less, although we can optimally express the brand.”

“We are still far away from our expansion goal,” she continued. “Today we have over 200 stores, which will hit the 300-mark by 2020. We plan to open 50 stores every year. We plan to register €150 million of sales in 2018, which we are keen to double by 2020. And to offer a view of our growth trajectory, our brand sales were only €45 million three years ago,” Maquin revealed.

Markets such as Asia and the US will be important for ba&sh. “We plan to go up to 40 stores in Asia, more specifically in China. As of now, there are six ba&sh stores in the US, and we will continue to open more points of sale through department stores like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The US will help establish ba&sh as an influential brand, while Asia will bring in the big volumes. We also plan to open stores in certain parts of Europe, such as Italy, Spain and Portugal,” she elaborated.