One of the most unique French e-commerce sites on the marketplace was launched in September 2011 after a friendly bet. Is it possible, the friends wondered, to launch a successful venture in any field whatsoever, with nothing but a nice story and beautiful French-made products? "Not with just anything," came the challenge.
"For example, it's impossible with men's briefs!" Guillaume Gibault, a 26-year-old HEC graduate, replied: "Impossible with men's briefs? Not if they're French!" Fast forward to the present. Guillaume currently employs 15 people at Leslipfrancais.fr and earned €1.5 million in revenue in 2014.
I had a chance to speak with Clément Coignac, Web Manager at Le Slip Français, who told me this exciting story about men's briefs.
Ambitious First Steps
After his bet, Guillaume had 600 pairs of briefs made in a small factory in Dordogne. He brought them back to Paris in the trunk of his car. To sell them, he created his first e-commerce site by himself. He used the PrestaShop platform because "it's simple, flexible, let me launch alone at first, and it was quick to set up." The first order came the day the site launched. These briefs were on a path to success!
The Briefs Take Off
The spotlight started to shine on Le Slip Français during the 2012 Presidential Campaign. At first it was difficult to see the connection. But it was there! The "Made in France" issue was one of the central themes of the campaign.
By creatively altering the campaign posters of several candidates in the election, Guillaume’s underwear stole the spotlight from politicians. The media immediately picked up on this unusual marketing campaign, and Le Slip Français was soon featured on all of the major national media outlets, from the "20 heures" evening news program on TF1 to Le Figaro and Canal +.
A Huge Boost in Sales and an Expanded Product Line
By Christmas, Le Slip Français had become a victim of its own success. "On December 10, our inventory was practically down to zero. Our brand works very well for gifts: Christmas, Father's Day, and Valentine's Day all have a very big impact on our sales.
We make a quarter of our sales in November and December alone.
" Guillaume gradually decided to expand his product line while staying with the typically French basics that brought him his success: briefs, boxers, socks, and T-shirts, as well as slippers, espadrilles, and pétanque balls. In 2013, he launched a swimsuit collection that sold out in just one week.
Today, the company works with about 15 suppliers, including the original factory. The majority of production is now in Lille, "in a factory that's able to keep up the pace," Clément explains.
"Everything we distribute is Made in France, including the packaging for our products. We're also proud to offer products that come from partnerships with major brands and famous designers like Saint James, Agnès B, and Princesse Tam-Tam.”
From an Online Store to Brick and Mortar, With the Help of the "Slip Truck"
It took less than three years for Le Slip Français to find a home with over sixty retailers, including the emblematic Galeries Lafayette in Paris. In July 2014, the company set off to conquer the beaches of France with its Slip Truck, a van offering made-in-France briefs and swimsuits to vacationing tourists.
The truck was one of the first steps Le Slip Français took towards brick-and-mortar commerce.
In October 2014, while the company was migrating to PrestaShop 1.6 for the third version of its site, it opened its first physical store in Paris.
The Recipe for Success: PrestaShop 1.6, Helping Le Slip Français Succeed
Whenever the brand appears on TV or is mentioned in a national newspaper, there can be a major increase in traffic. After their appearance on the TF1 evening newscast in September 2012, there were more than 5,000 simultaneous connections to the site, and around 15,000 connections in the 5 minutes following the broadcast of the report.
Yann Costes, founder of NewQuest, explains: "PrestaShop naturally manages traffic spikes.
In the case of Le Slip Français, its store and database are hosted on different servers, which allows them to handle a large increase in traffic at any time. We can also add additional servers and a load balancer to guarantee 100% site uptime for special promotions on major media outlets."
Upgrading from PrestaShop 1.3 to 1.6 also helped the brand implement a number of new features.
In addition to a mobile version of the site and emails (which led to more than a 10% increase in sales in that channel), abandoned cart reminders, and automatic promotions for customer birthdays, NewQuest made several customizations that are unique to the store.
CMS e-commerce page management was adapted to fit as closely as possible to the brand's needs. Pages like "The History of Briefs" and "100% Made in France" were custom created, then the CMS interfaces of the PrestaShop back office were adapted to the content.
Another feature unique to Le Slip Français is how photos from social networks can be shared directly to the product page in question. By associating a unique hashtag with each product, the team at Le Slip Français can monitor posts and share content from them on product pages.
This helps strengthen the brand's sense of community and presents the products in another light.
For email campaigns, the store is connected to MailChimp.
Customers who sign up for the newsletter are automatically segmented by profile and purchases. It’s basically the age-old question: "Boxers or briefs?" Le Slip Français uses Be2Bill and PayPal for its online payments.
Logistics, which had initially been managed in Guillaume's garage, are now completely outsourced with Logtex using EDI to send and track orders, and connected to Fastmag ERP software for inventory management. The company doesn't run many AdWords or retargeting campaigns.
Thanks to its strong values, the brand now has over 50,000 fans and nearly 10,000 followers. "Our community is like our playground," Clément explains.
"It's incredibly supportive. Our crowdfunding campaign for "briefs that smell good" brought in more than €22,000 instead of the €10,000 we had hoped for!" The company is doing an excellent job of capitalizing on the buzz. Its "Surprise du Chef" ("Chef's Surprise") video has nearly one million views on YouTube, and even made the front page of Yahoo Japan!
The Future of Le Slip: International Expansion
Le Slip has quite a few plans in the works with PrestaShop. The first is conquering international markets. "Le Slip Français has already had some success in Western Europe (Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and Asia. 2015 will be our year for international growth.
Soon our site will be translated into German and Chinese. These versions will use PrestaShop's multistore feature, which will give us completely localized front offices with specific domain names," Clément says. They plan to use PrestaShop 1.6's shared inventory feature to centralize inventories between the physical and online stores.
Finally, there's also a WordPress blog interfaced with PrestaShop in the works: product pages will link to articles that mention them, and vice-versa. Much more can be said about the success of Le Slip Français... check out the key figures in this infographic!