Impact : Meeting with one of the old guard
To hell with the people who think that in the North-East storks fly with a pretzel in their beaks. When I arrive in Mulhouse more precisely in Impact the sun is scorching. There are two entrances to the heart of the town center: Rue Henriette and Rue des Boulangers. You enter the town as if you were entering a mill but in Impact they don’t just grind grain. Here’s what happened when I met an old man the day before…
Hi Laurent, Impact is getting on a bit. How did it all start?
The opening for Impact was back in 2001. I was leaving a surf shop where I used to be the aisle manager. I wanted to work for myself. I barely had 5000 francs in my pocket at the time. I started with a small shop about 30 m² where you could find skateboard items and accessories. As things changed I discovered Hip-Hop brands such as: Com8 and Ekko. At the time we got lucky and were able to get exclusiveness with Com8. He’s a friend of ours who distributes to Eastern countries. This went off with a bang and allowed me to buy a new shop. So I created two very distinct shops. One would be more skateboard items and the other would be more Hip-Hop. Before, it was too complicated to mix the two identities. We did open a shop up in Strasbourg but it didn’t last as we had a few problems. It was decided that we would do everything in Mulhouse. Today, many brands are dependent on large cities like Strasbourg, Paris and Lyon. We’re lucky enough to be near the border to three different countries. We’re barely 20km from Bâle and 20km from Germany. This zone conveys an incoming flow of numerous customers.
A lot of people follow you on social networks. However you still don’t have an e-commerce online platform. Is this something that’s going to happen in the near future?
Actually, we’re just finishing it. The website is ready. I worked on getting the website ready with someone from Paris. It took a long time to get everything done because I wanted everything to be just perfect. The website that we’re making is not a website for consumers. You’ll see that in the shop we have a lot of limited collections with brands such as Nike and Adidas. We have the largest accounts with these brands in the region.
How do you manage to get exclusiveness?
I think a key factor is the fact that I have been working with Nike for over 10 years. We have always paid on time. It’s always been legit and with the transformation of the shop as you can see today: we went from 30m2 to 300m2. The bargaining power of these things is done naturally. Today many brands approach us. But the real strength of this shop is our unusual team. I’m not joking but the youngsters who work for me, 80% of them is what makes the shop so successful. The team couldn’t be any better! I work with kids who I can count on. They love what they do. There’s everything for it to work. Let’s hope it lasts … Touch wood!
How has your team managed to work in perfect harmony?
I have always worked in the same way. I studied sales, and then went on to get my national diploma, to finish off with a higher national diploma. Today, some of the people who are a part of our team don’t have a higher national diploma but they were all apprentices. They all started with an internship. They stood out compared to other kids. I guess they were perhaps a little more quick-witted than others. They did their national diploma or first diploma as apprentices. As they learned they grew with the company. Those who did well after 3 or 5 years of being with us got a job at the end of their apprenticeship. The opening of Wood has allowed us to hire two additional people.
Wood barely opened a month ago. Can you tell us more about the essence of this new shop?
It is a combination of circumstances. We had planned to return to our first love. We wanted to create another shop with the skaterboy image inspired from what saw on the way to New York. It was more like a Supreme shop than a skate-shop that you have today with scooters and roller blades. That’s not our image. It was something more refined. We work with Stussy, Nike SB, Diamonds and Alife.
Wood, an online website… Are there anymore projects that may follow afterwards?
Of course there will be. The premises that you can see downstairs, to get them I became somebody’s associate. It’s someone who invests a lot in property and who trusted me a while back. Even with today’s value of the premises I may never have been able to get them. What I’m trying to say is that we never stop, and we always have other planned adventures … We are also looking to eventually export to another city. It’s still under discussion … The question today is: What do we do? Do we continue to evolve and become more and stronger in Mulhouse? Because you need to know that today our catchment area is not just Mulhouse. The number of people coming from Strasbourg, Colmar, Besançon, Switzerland and Germany is increasing. We’ve got people coming from Lausanne. These people come from far away just because we have limited series of trainers or other textile brands that people cannot find elsewhere. The aim of Impact is to get all of these brands under one roof; this will therefore attract the customers.
Let’s talk about brands. What made you want to distribute OLOW?
Outside Olow there were several factors. We as customers are increasingly looking at the manufacturing labels. This is the first thing. The manufacturing is done in Europe, Portugal, a factor which for me makes me choose this brand over another. The second factor is Mr Chabaud. Who is a friend who was at the time doing business with Karim about Com8. And with whom I have stayed in touch. And the number 1 key factor is that the clothes made by Olow currently match what we sell to our customers.
What do you expect from brands like OLOW today?
Today what kills shops is the end of season stock. Generally when I sign new brands I negotiate part exchanges with them. Items go on sale and we have a look at what we’ve sold. Independent shops like ourselves must try and have zero stock at the end of the season. I’ll let you imagine the difficulty of having 300m2. Some people think that we negotiate part exchange because we are a wholesale shop. That’s not it. Today there are eight of us and the costs are considerably high. What I’m saying is that we need to be selling the t-shirts that cost 35 euros. I negotiate so that we do not disappear in the long term.
The key factor of Impact is trainers but you also distribute a lot of graphic t-shirts. Are there any artists in your entourage with who you could see us working?
Our buddies are rather into graffiti. I have a buddy Bruno Leval from Mulhouse who has worked with Nike. He made t-shirts for Federer even Nadal. He’s a guy who’s good at what he does. We’ve got a lot of people who are really into art. I will let you know about all of that…
I guess you listen to quite a lot of Hip-Hop here. What song do you currently have on repeat here in Impact?
The latest album by Tyler, The Creator. It’s good. It’s actually very good.
Thank you to Laurent
– P.L –