BRAUN HAMBURG began in 1933, not a great year to mention (see what happened with Hitler…). We spoke with Lars Braun about the company’s foundation who gracefully answered still showing some discomfort, however 1933 is definitely just a coincidence.
Lars, current CEO and grandson of the company’s founder entered the company in 1996. “The last four years have shown a strong moment of change” he says. Digital Information has become very important among Braun’s clients, “they find it chic to use it”. This has allowed a deeper know how, information is at our fingertips and at the click of a button.
Mr Braun goes on to say that clients buy when they feel; customers are emotionally driven. Furthermore to popular spending, customers have lost their sense of loyalty, suit sales were on the rise at Braun previously. Today, consumerism is very different.
Contrary to the aforementioned statistic they have seen an increase in company growth, Braun’s e-commerce and social media has boomed in recent years, with a department currently consisting of twenty-eight members. With this being extremely positive for the menswear online store, there is still room for further growth. Unlike other stores, 40% of the brands partnered with Braun are to be sold online and not in their Hamburg stores.
Upcoming projects under Lars Braun’s belt are their Mönckebergstraße 17 store to undergo a refurb. Whilst they concentrate on an expansion in sales at their most recent store in Kaisersgalerie and their e-commerce site, where Germany, Austria and the UK rank as their top three markets.
Upon being asked about competition, Mr Braun mentions MrPorter; another digital Menswear store, but cannot comment on offline stores. But Lars doesn’t sweat the small stuff, his plan is to establish more and more as a number one global menswear player.
What are the most important values for the company Braun Hamburg?
- A sense of loyalty between employee and employer (and the other way round);
- A chance for staff to always have open and sincere relationships with the company;
- Count on strong and fair partnerships with all the brands they carry;
How has the relationship changed with your suppliers over the last years? Unsurprisingly, he elaborates that the stronger they become the less freedom they give to the buyer, this can be from what to buy to cost – This is an interesting topic that we’ll soon be covering on The Styleism.
After more than 20 years in the business, Braun humbly admits that the level of in-store quality buying has decreased across the market. Most buyers purchase just to respect a figure (buying volume) without any freedom. This does not happen at all at Braun Hamburg, his buying team can place big orders on a brand that had poor results solely because they believe the new collection is strong and will obtain good sales. Equally, the team will place very small orders or no order at all if they find a very weak or uncommercial collection, no matter what the sales results have been so far.
The company, today encompasses 120 employees, yet Lars admits that the team working at the warehouse still ask him for a salary increase or a bonus when crossing him in the corridor; exactly as they used to, 20 years ago.
Turning to ask the successful grandson, what is the last brand he would remove from the store, his answer intrigues me. ’Surely Brunello Cucinelli, not only for the size of the business being very big, but also because it is very much our style, Cucinelli is very Hamburg’.
And when Mr Braun is asked which brand he would like to carry, he looks out of the window and points to Hermes, just across the river.
Although he cannot mention offline competitors, I wanted him to talk about which stores he respects the most. ‘Both Pauw and Oger in Amsterdam, Hermès Faubourg St Honoré and Antonia in Milano’.
‘What’s the biggest mistake you have made lately Mr Braun?’
’Not going to Neuer Wall 10 years ago, when the rents were much lower. Also not having travelled more, I plan to go to Seoul pretty soon to check the market’.
Mr Braun’s biggest pride are his family, followed by the Kaisersgaleries store which celebrates three years now and the great success of his online store.
Having acquired lifestyle brand 04651 online and in-store Braun’s fruitful sales. The brand http://04651-sylt.de has its inspiration from Sylt; an island located in Northern Germany known for its exclusive resorts. In short, their focal point is to offer easy to wear garments with good quality that are not too loud or cheap in style. Their clothing is to encompass versatility during all four seasons for wealthy and sophisticated men. 04651 now has the goal in mind to branch out into wholesale and will show at the Berlin fair in January and in Pitti Uomo in Summer 2018.
Mr Braun went on to discuss with us, Masculin; a magazine established in 1974 that features the most sought after menswear stores in Germany. ‘Having changed a lot from the beginning, and so have we, as members. We try to keep a fair conversation and a common interest in doing it’.
‘Are you satisfied with your own magazine? And what are your opinions about digital vs print?’
‘I am quite pleased with the result of the magazine, a great team is working behind it every season, although it could be always better. Most stores are investing in a digital communication and so are we. I feel that there will be soon a return of “print”. For our clients, it is important to find our Ad in the local newspapers and I have always felt that being a very sophisticated way to promote our company. Definitely we’ll continue to do both.’
article by Alessandro Agazzi
edited by Rakelle Maurici @rakellemaurici
photography by Martin Smolka @mart_josef