Interview with Thibaut Guigues, Director of Le Comptoir Français
Could you tell us about the history of Le Comptoir Français?
My objective in creating Le Comptoir Francais was to bring to Australia a vision of my youth, in the form of classic French clothing and linen. As a young boy I was surrounded by iconic French products from brands that are an integral part of French families’ life and represent the quality of everyday French living. For the whole house, from the kitchen table to the bathroom, we have very high quality products. We have also some classic garments that have been around for decades and have been worn by generations of French families.
My Australian family and my involvement in the Brisbane French Festival made me realise how much such high quality products, not only food and wine, were appreciated by Australians. With that in mind, I started to think about French brands that were not present in Australia yet. Being from Normandy my first thought was of course the classic striped fisherman jumper. Considering that a large majority of Australians live on the coast, I was convinced that it was a key product to import.
In early 2015, I started to contact some French companies to see if they were interested in introducing their products to the Australian market. I decided to target classic and timeless products so as not to be dependent on fashion from one year to another. My idea was to offer products for babies, kids, women, men, as well as for the house in a one-stop shop.
In March 2015, I went to France to meet all the suppliers I had been in contact with. They were very interested in being distributed in Australia. In July, finally, I exposed my products at the Brisbane French Festival. The online boutique was launched just after that.
How would you describe the core activity of Le Comptoir Français?
Le Comptoir Français sells high quality classic French products via its online boutique: www.lecomptoir.com.au. Our website is conceived to be a showcase platform for the brands we distribute. You can find information about each brand, its history and range of products; see some archive picture and videos. The idea is to build the brands’ profile and awareness in the Australian market. At this stage we distribute 5 brands: Saint James, which has been manufacturing the fisherman sweater from Britany for 150 years and has now diversified with a full range of striped clothing both for men and women; Arthur, which has been designing 100% cotton boxer shorts for 30 years; Cyrillus, which is a fashion house specialised in kids and baby clothing; VICOMTE A., which is renowned for its ties and two-tone polo shirts; and finally Garnier Thiebaut, which is known as the designer and manufacturer of the highest quality table linens, bed linens, and accessories for the finest hotels, restaurants, casinos, clubs, and homes around the world. Both Saint James and Garnier Thibault have the Living Heritage Company label (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant), a national label recognising companies for the excellence of their traditional and industrial skills.
Our distributor status enables us to have stock here in Australia and to ship the orders to our clients nationwide very quickly as well as to have a good return policy. We replace or refund any unworn/unused and undamaged item within 14 days from order.
Can you describe your personal background and your role as Director of Le Comptoir Français?
I graduated from a French business school after studying international marketing and communications, partly in France (Tours and Poitiers) and partly in London where I spent a year and a half. I have always been keen to travel, and had a wonderful first overseas experience in Texas, where I spent a whole year right after high school. So when I met my future wife, who was doing a language and cultural exchange in France and happened to be from Toowoomba, I had no problem picturing my life in Australia. As soon as I finished my business school I decided to move to Brisbane to live with her. I have been living here for 8 years now.
Over those 8 years I have worked in the import/export sector, gaining extensive experience both in logistics and purchasing. I also wanted to get to know the market before launching my own business in a new country.
In March this year, I finally decided that my skills and my knowledge of the Australian market were strong enough to launch my own business. Thanks to my experience in logistics, I am able to keep the price of the products I distribute reasonable. I want my products to have good quality for value.
As most entrepreneurs do, I wear multiple hats in my business. I take care of business development, negotiation of contracts, accounting, logistics, sales, orders handling, as well as the website. I do, however, rely on my wife and mother-in-law when it comes to the products selection process.
How do you envisage the future of your company and how can FACCI help you achieve your objectives?
My first objective is to develop further the relationship I have with each brand and to extend their range of products in Australia. I also want to represent more brands in the future. I have already contacted Descamps for instance and have a few other ones in mind. In 2016 I will also develop new points of sale though distribution in multi-brand boutiques, in addition to the online boutique. For this purpose I will soon start to attend trade shows.
Since I have joined FACCI as a Small Business member, I have really benefited from the networking opportunities and connections that FACCI provided me with. FACCI can also help me achieving my objectives by promoting our website in the French and Francophile community and giving us extra exposure among FACCI’s business network through posts on its social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The Chamber has also invited us to participate to its Members to Members Benefits Programme which gives us another opportunity to promote our products.
For more information, please consult Le Comptoir Français' website: www.lecomptoir.com.au.
Interview conducted by Claire Dupré and Camille Barbe on 18 November 2015.
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