Pierre Robert - underwear in between bread and milk

The introduction of the Pierre Robert brand of underwear has made it feel natural for us to buy our underwear and socks in the same store that we buy our groceries. Good design and an excellent knowledge of consumer needs have facilitated this success.

The challenge
Women of all ages have at some time in their lives popped in to their local grocery store at the last minute to pick up a pair of tights from La Mote before heading off to a party. Although these tights were not top quality, they were inexpensive and available wherever one shopped. In the early years of the new millennium, however, the La Mote brand was perceived as being more staid than trendy, and sales dropped.

The manufacturer, which at that time was called La Mote AS, felt there was still a great deal of unrealised potential in selling underwear in grocery stores? At the time, the grocery store segment accounted for only 8 per cent of total underwear sales. With the launch of the new brand, it was hoped that sales could be moved from specialist retail outlets to grocery stores. In particular, it was hoped it would be possible to reach out a target group consisting of women aged between 25 and 45 years of age, people who had traditionally purchased underwear in retail chain stores rather than at the local supermarket.

The goal was that consumers would associate Pierre Robert with modern design, thereby making it feel quite natural for them to purchase underwear in grocery stores.

The process
The design process took as its starting-point the existing La Mote brand but ended up developing a completely new brand with a new visual identity and new content. In 2006, the Pierre Robert brand, which at the time was a sleeping brand, was acquired and re-launched as a brand of underwear.

The company had not previously used design to any great degree, apart from during the product development process. Now, however, freelance designers were commissioned, and subsequently designers were employed full-time. A project group was established consisting of representatives from the company’s marketing, purchasing and logistics, sales, category and finance departments, all of which contributed with their expertise and collectively drew up a complex plan for the launch. Particular importance was attached to finding the right concept and brand stamp. These preconditions formed the basis of all ongoing work. Design was an important ingredient at all times, both by the freelance designer in respect of the product (fit/colour/pattern) and as regards external packaging and the advertising agency when preparing packaging, advertising etc.

Quantitative studies (needs charts) and qualitative research (focus groups) were implemented, and it was discovered that Scandinavian women differ from other women in respect of their sporty attitude and active lifestyle. These women wanted something that was more authentic and genuine and that fit their bodies and busy lifestyles. They wanted practical clothes that would fit them perfectly and have an appealing design. In order for them to make a purchase, it was important that the product packaging would make them feel proud to place Pierre Robert underwear it their shopping baskets. Availability and visibility were also crucial so that they could make swift and easy decisions in their busy lives.

The solution
In 2008, the company changed its name to the Pierre Robert Group, and today it produces underwear, tights and socks for men, women and children. Distribution still takes place through grocery stores.

The underwear collection is divided into a basic collection and a so-called limited edition collection.

Design is one of the main ingredients in the ongoing process of product development. Pierre Robert today has two designers employed on a full-time basis who are involved in all product development processes within the company, both in connection with new innovations such as the Pierre Robert Sport Collection and in ongoing product improvements to the existing range. The designers work in close cooperation with the purchasing and product manager.

The designers are also responsible for communicating trends to the entire company, and for taking part in project groups involved in re-launching or innovations. In addition, design is an important resource when assessing aesthetic and modern aspects in, for example, presentations, advertising, packaging etc., and it thus helps to ensure that the brand and the company are presented as being up-to-date and modern.

The results
The project objectives were realised many times over. The initial success has since been extended to several new sub brands under the Pierre Robert brand, including Pierre Robert for Men, Young Collection, Wool Collection and Sport Collection, and almost all of these sub brands have achieved great success and contributed to additional growth.

The Pierre Robert brand achieved more than a five-fold growth in turnover, from NOK 46 million in 2006 to NOK 274 million in 2008. The market share for the Pierre Robert brand was 7.4 per cent of the total market (2009).

Pierre Robert has revolutionised the entire underwear segment. Consumers can now purchase quality underwear with a perfect fit and modern design in their nearest grocery store! The underwear is designed for the lives and lifestyles of Scandinavian women.

Critical factors of success/“key learning points”
The entire organisation was prepared to make the launch of Pierre Robert women’s underwear a huge success, and the launch involved a major collective effort. It was of crucial importance that the company understood consumer needs and the key criteria as to how a brand should be developed. In addition, design was crucial to the company’s success.

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