Gülden Yılmaz, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Koton
Yılmaz Yılmaz, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Koton
“The infrastructure created together with Nebim makes up the driving force behind our control and follow-up mechanism.”
Koton, a company that was founded as a small boutique in Kuzguncuk in 1988, is growing rapidly in Turkey and abroad and has 222 stores in 24 countries. During the year, Koton offers a very high number of collections and models to the customers. They have over 150 stores in Turkey and over 60 stores abroad. Gülden Yılmaz, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Koton, and Yılmaz Yılmaz Chairman of the Board of Directors of Koton, explained how they manage such a big operation thanks to Nebim, and how the control and follow-up between stores is carried out.
Koton started out as a small boutique in Kuzguncuk in 1988. The brand has developed in an awe-inspiring manner. Would you please talk about this process?
Koton’s commercial life started with the first store that we opened in Kuzguncuk. In the beginning, I was directly involved in the sales at the store, and my husband used to help at the weekends for procurement. After he was discharged from the army and we started working together, our business grew rapidly. We opened the design department in 1995. In 1996, we opened our first wholesale store in Munich. The following year, we opened our first Koton concept store at Profilo Shopping Mall in Istanbul. In the years after that, we also opened stores with the franchise system along with our own stores and created a large store chain in Turkey and abroad. At the moment, we have 160 stores in Turkey and 62 stores and sales points at various important locations in the world, such as Libya, Romania, Slovakia, Dubai and Bulgaria.
We can talk about Koton as a company that always sells fashion for reasonable prices and that expands its product range. At Koton, how do you define your customer profile and how do you position Koton in the ready-to-wear apparel sector?
Koton’s customer profile consists of young people and young professionals. Our customers follow the fashion trends and prefer reasonable prices. In the last 10 years, as a result of the crises the consumer profile changed both in Turkey and abroad. The consumers chose not to prefer luxury goods, and to prefer various brands with diverse quality with regards to obligatory purchases. Koton understood these changing trends beforehand and increased its sales and customer portfolio significantly. With its wide customer profile, innovative projects, and reasonably-priced trend-setting products, Koton is among the most important players in the field of fast fashion both in Turkey and in the world.
Even the big ready-to-wear apparel brands take notice of you at this point. At the stores that Koton opens outside of Turkey, how can you compete with fast fashion companies such as H&M, Zara, and Mango?
We at Koton have been doing exports for 15 years. We have 222 stores in 24 countries and this number increases rapidly both in Turkey and in the world. In most cases of foreign stores, the request for opening a Koton store comes from them. Sometimes we receive offers such as a period of rent-free six months so that they have a Koton store in their shopping malls or shopping destinations. Koton is now at a point that it creates traffic at its location.
During the year, you offer a very high number or collections and models to your customers. When we consider that you have over 150 stores in Turkey and over 60 stores abroad, how do you manage such a huge operation? How do you establish the control and follow-up between the stores?
We at Koton have an unchanged, experienced team structure. The team that has been part of the growth since the past and that has adopted the growth plans for tomorrow plays a big role in the success. The driving force behind the control and follow-up mechanism consists of the improvements carried out together with Nebim and the infrastructure improvements depending upon the needs. The store organization of Koton both for stores in Turkey and abroad renews and develops its structure with a dynamic approach. This way, we can keep our competitive edge during the growth phase.
Recently, one of the most debated subjects is that the Euro loses value and the Turkish Lira gains value. What is your opinion on this? What are the reflections on Koton?
Even though prices seem to have gone higher in the short term due to the fact that the TL becomes more valuable against the Euro, our strategy of price management and project management based on countries did prevent that we were affected too much. We work on expanding in the market we are in and to reach our market share so that we can get rid of such transitory shocks. It is possible to get out of situations like that even stronger by being careful about customer needs, as well as the balance between product and price.
Yılmaz Bey, in our previous talks you gave many success examples from Wal-Mart. Considering Wal-Mart, or any other example, is there any best practice you would like to share with other Nebim users as one of the most successful leaders of the ready-to-wear apparel brands?
Our biggest target is to become the Wal-Mart of ready-to-wear apparel sector. Additionally, we can set companies such as H&M and Zara, which even come out of crisis periods successfully, as examples.
What are your expectations from the second half of 2010? What is your roadmap regarding new investments?
For 2010 and beyond, we plan to focus on countries that are consistent with our customer profile and that are going to make a contribution to our brand value, and countries that are close to us in a geographical and climatic sense, such as North African countries, Middle East, Central Asia, Eastern and Western European countries. We will continue to pleasantly surprise the customers at Koton stores. By the end of 2010, we plan to open 20 stores in Turkey, and 15 stores abroad, i.e. 35 stores in total.