I hope everyone had a great start to 2021! Half of Europe is covered in snow and we all look forward to ending the new lockdowns which will be a thing of the past once the vaccine is administered worldwide!
I wanted to give you a break from the discouraging newspaper headlines we've read lately by interviewing Marcus Janssen, the man who drives the team behind one of the most successful country brands in the world: Schöffel Country.
If you are a fan of the brand, or if you are building your own clothing brand, this post will help you understand what things have helped Schöffel build such a strong sales pipeline across the different seasons for so many decades.
Schöffel is owned by Bradshaw Taylor, with headquarters in the UK. Under their umbrella, they have brands like Le Chameau and Schöffel and here is how Marcus drives the business, supplemented with a few pictures of the man himself as well as part of their latest collection:
Who is Marcus Janssen?
I am head of Country Brands at Bradshaw Taylor, where I am Brand Director of Schöffel Country and Le Chameau. I have a background in publishing and media, having worked as a journalist and editor for a range of country sports publications in the UK, US, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and before that I worked in the safari industry. Prior to joining Bradshaw Taylor, I was the editor of Fieldsports Magazine and the Scottish Sporting Gazette. I grew up in South Africa and have hunted, shot and fly fished all my life.
2.What is it like working at Bradshaw Taylor Ltd? What exactly do you do?
Bradshaw Taylor is a pretty special company. It is entirely family-owned, and therefore has a proper family ethos, but it is progressive and full of genuinely talented, creative people who all care deeply about our brands and business. As brand director for Schöffel Country and Le Chameau, I am essentially responsible for the direction in which we take our brands, in terms of branding/image, as well as product, sales and marketing. We are incredibly fortunate to have two truly special brands, arguably the market leaders in their sector, but with that comes a duty of care to ensure that they are looked after to ensure they remain true to their core and authentic, and have a long and sustainable future, whilst, of course, remaining profitable. So I am involved in all aspects of both brands, from product development through to sales and marketing.
3.How has your background in the media industry helped in your role at BT?
Most importantly, my media experience in the world of country pursuits has given me a really good understanding of our core market. The DNA of both brands is deeply rooted in the countryside and in country sports, and I think my experience and understanding of that world and its nuances and intricacies allows me to understand and empathise with our customers, ensuring that we are developing products that fulfil their needs and wants, and also communicating with them in a genuine way. I believe that authenticity is crucial for brands like ours, particularly in the modern social media age where we are overwhelmed with targeted content on a daily basis. I think it is reassuring when you find people, groups and companies that really understand your world and share your views. I really do believe that we understand our customers, and we listen to them.
4.What makes Schöffel and Le Chameau different from competitors in class?
I will have to answer that question separately for each brand as, although they have much in common, they are also very different brands with different backgrounds and histories.
What makes Schöffel Country unique is that it combines the best of British, in terms of design and aesthetics, with world-class German engineering, manufacturing and attention to detail. Schöffel is entirely family-owned, and always has been for over 200 years (the current owner and CEO is Peter Schöffel), so we have a wealth of tailoring and manufacturing experience behind us, as well as all of the advantages of being a family-owned company. Schöffel Country is a brand that has been built on a unique partnership between the Schöffel family and my boss, Corry Cavell-Taylor, whose brainchild it was for Schöffel to branch into technical country clothing back in 1993. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, built on an ethos of outstanding quality and excellent customer service.
Le Chameau is an iconic brand that we are immensely proud to be a part of. There are a number of things that makes us different to our competitors, but I guess the most significant thing is the fact that, whereas other rubber boot brands rely on injection moulding to mass-produce boots, ours are made entirely by hand by Maître bottiers (master bootmakers) in our wholly-owned factory in Casablanca, Morocco. What this means is that every single pair passes through at least three expert pairs of hands before they are boxed and sent to our warehouse, so they are carefully examined and checked for any flaws. In addition, every single pair is tested to ensure they are fully waterproof before they are boxed. This gives us absolute confidence in the quality of each and every pair of boots that makes it into our warehouse. The other thing that we wholeheartedly believe is that our rubber boots are the most comfortable on the market. Because they are handcrafted using our own unique Chamolux rubber and the finest quality linings, the fit is excellent, and they are supple and pliable, they are a joy to wear! Speaking from my own personal experience, there is absolutely no question that my Le Chameau Chasseur boots, which I have had for five years, are the most comfortable rubber boots I have ever owned.
5.You mention you have seen great brands which started in a niche but then got diluted into other trends shying away from their core business/focus. How have Le Chameau and Schöffel remained true to their values? How will you make sure you grow the business remaining true to these values?
This is a great question, and something that we touched upon above in terms of authenticity and remaining true to our DNA. What I think is important is to remember where you started, and with both Schöffel Country and Le Chameau, that was in the countryside. That is who we are, it is what makes our brands special and unique, it is our heritage. It takes years and years to build the trust and support of countryside and farming communities, who are incredibly loyal to the brands they like, so it would be a betrayal of their trust if we were to then forget about them in the pursuit of bigger and better things. They helped us to build our brands, so we want to continue to provide them with the best possible products and service. Yes, of course, we must grow our businesses, and that may mean expanding into new territories, but we are absolutely committed to longevity and sustainability within our core country markets.
6.Where do you see the brands in 5 years time?
Both brands have huge potential to expend into overseas markets as they have both been built around the quality of our products, and quality is the one thing that transcends borders. Up until very recently, Schöffel Country has only really been available in the UK, but we are now expanding into Europe and the USA, offering our existing product range to premium retailers who have discerning customers who appreciate high-quality, beautiful British-designed country clothing. So in five years’ time, I want to have grown Schöffel Country’s presence in Scandinavia, Central Europe and the USA, by working closely with key retail partners. Of course, we must maintain our strong position in the UK, which will always be our core market.
In terms of Le Chameau, our involvement with this incredible brand only started in 2019, when my boss Corry Taylor bought a majority stake in the business. Since then, we have given the brand a root and branch overhaul, addressing and restructuring every single aspect of the business. From top to bottom, we have taken every aspect of the business in-house, so our team is now in complete control of how the product is made, distributed, sold and marketed. Last year was a hugely challenging year for our team, but we are also immensely proud of everything we achieved. Having said that, we have a lot more work to do yet, to get Le Chameau to reach its full potential. We know we have outstanding product, but we also want to be known for outstanding service and delivery of product, and we are utterly committed to achieving that aim. We also recognise the great growth potential of Le Chameau in new markets like Europe and the USA, so we will be looking to grow our presence in these markets.
7. This must have been a particularly difficult time for your retailers during Covid. How do you support them?
Yes, this really has been a torrid and difficult time for so many of our retailers, and we really empathise with them as they have been forced to close their doors on three separate occasions now. Our retailers have helped us to grow our business, so we really want to support them wherever we can. One of the things that helps in times like these is a strong core, carry-over range, which doesn’t become redundant at the end of the season. This is something that we have with both brands, so our retailers who haven’t been able to sell through their stock will be able to do so whenever they are able to re-open their doors.
8.Why is digital marketing & influencers important to you?
Now more than ever, it is vital for businesses and brands to be omnichannel. The way that people shop is changing fast, and Covid has only amplified this, so if you continue to operate on a traditional model in the old way, you will simply get left behind. You have to be progressive to stay abreast of these changes, and part of that is staying visible and relevant online. Particularly at the moment, when so many people are not able to get into their local retailers, we have to ensure that people can see and learn about our products online, through our retailers’ websites and social media channels, through our own channels, as well as through influencers who have relevant followers. It’s about ensuring that our products are seen, in the right way and context, and influencers can help us do that. We are just lucky that we have two brands that lots of people like to wear and talk about online!
9. Top 5 Instagram accounts you like.
This is a very difficult one to answer as there are so many great accounts out there putting out wonderful content. What I personally like about Instagram is the constant feed of world-class photography that’s out there if you look in the right places. I follow a wide range of country sports, wildlife and landscape photographers, people like Sarah Farnsworth (@sarahfarnsworthfieldsports), Tarquin Millington-Drake (@tarquinmillingtondrake), Shane Doyle (@shane_doyle_photography) and Matt Harris (@mattharrisflyfishing). And I also follow a lot of chefs as I love my cooking and food! And a special mention has to go to my friend Patrick Galbraith (editor of Shooting Times) whose personal Instagram account might be the most entertaining thing on the internet.
I hope you found this interview inspiring and if you are curious to see the rest of Schöffel's latest collection, you can click here https://www.schoffelcountry.com/
All the best and thanks for reading!