(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). As the owner of Electric Lingerie (which licenses the Hustler brand), and while working as an executive at International Intimates, Elan Rofé has sold a lot of underwear to retail stores around the world. Along the way, however, he became a retailer himself, and that part of his business strategy now includes a chain of franchise stores under the Ann Devine label.
Rofé, who is now based in Hong Kong, opened the flagship Ann Devine store there recently and now is an investor or owner in “over 20” other shops (some under other names) in different parts of the world.
“From the beginning the concept was global. I possess a lot of my own stores but there was always the big plan for franchise. After analyzing what we can make better, how we will be perfect,” along with many months of research, he gave the “green light for franchising and (has) already signed some contracts. Over 90 percent of people who would like to invest we denied: success means to work only with people who are hungry for successes,” he explained. His partners must not only be looking for a great opportunity, “they have to live the strategy!”
Ann Devine, the name chosen for the franchise operation, is not a real person. The label was “finally chosen because it stands for high quality,” according to Rofé and the branding professionals he hired to help him with the name, “it stands for high quality,” is “women friendly,” provokes curiosity and is easy to pronounce anywhere in the world, which is “very important for an international brand name.”
To kick off the chain, Rofé declared,
“I invested $750,000 plus in the first flagship store to show what [the] reference should be. Still I am investing nearly every second month in a new store. If you [do] a good job you can still earn a lot of money in the erotic industry. I would say even more than in the golden DVD and VCR time. The key is the knowledge and know-how. You can call me arrogant but no one is coming close to growing as fast as we are in Asia.”
Despite the rapid growth, Rofé noted it has been a struggle. “I lost a lot of money, nerves and time but I never gave up, and everything I do know is based on good and bad experience. We still learn every day and it is a good feeling knowing there is still a long way to go. Even more money can be earned in our existing stores! I always say to my staff: it’s not the amount of profit that tells us if we are successful. We have to make the formula perfect to maximize” the potential of the brand.
One particular advantage Rofé has had with the new stores is his extensive background on the wholesale side of the business, first at International Intimates (which is headed by his father, René) and later at Electric. “Experience in design and sourcing is a big help.”
Rofé plans to continue to open a new Ann Devine franchise shop “every two to three months,” adding, “We are always looking for ways to expand our business. Interested parties and potential franchisees can see what we have to offer and how they can make money from our know-how.”
The intimates’ executive also emphasized that there is still an extreme lack of innovation in the world of sexy lingerie shops and retailers of adult products. “Go to LA, London or Berlin. 99% of all shops are living the old groove. Times have changed,” he continued. “‘Sex and the City,’ etc. Erotic went mainstream and many people bring (it) where it does not belong. At the end we just make the logical steps. First look around, listen, start to think!”
Rofé said he had an epiphany of sorts while visiting Scandinavia. “A friend of mine in Sweden told me he has the best store in the world. Told me about profit per square meter, how much money he made. And after I saw his shop I knew, 'This is my business.' This store was awful!” he added with a wink.
The sexy business in Hong Kong is particularly moribund. “The limited amount of sex shops are all very local and seedy. We are by far the market leader with the largest presence. People all around the word like lingerie but we are at the forefront of developing lingerie as fashion in Hong Kong and China.
When asked about his pricing strategy in his stores, Rofé confided, “We sell for high prices. This makes us profitable and is one of our secrets.”
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