CALIDA GROUP – It all started with a T-shirt

2020-02-17

“If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?”

Dorothy Parker, American poet

On 23 January 2020, the Investors in the Fund met in Nyon to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the launch of the Fund. We met at O’ Les Terrasses du Lac (www.olesterrassesdulac.ch). The venue was constructed in 1820 and housed the Hôtel Odelet, situated on the lake as a trading point for transporters of wood logs from the nearby Jura mountains. The restaurant served a “voluptuous” cheese fondue, accompanied by the local Chasselas wine and finished off with the dessert, a mouth-watering & glorious Pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova and nothing to do with Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory, even though, under the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) of the cheese fondue & Pavlova dessert, the guests’salivation was the unconditioned response. To cut a long story short, it was a joyful event!

Following my review of 2019, we welcomed our guest, Sacha Gerber, CFO of Calida Group (www.calidagroup.com).  Calida was founded in 1941 by Max Kellenberger & Hans J. Palmers and is headquartered in Sursee, near Lucerne. After the IPO in 1987 and a rough patch in 2000/2001, Felix Sulzberger, an industry expert, joined the firm & led the turnaround of the business, including the acquisition of Aubade 15 years ago, and the development of the own stores of the 2 brands. In 2014 Calida took over the LAFUMA Group following a majority takeover and restructured it, creating the Millet Mountain Group (Millet, Eider & Lafuma brands), the Lafuma Furniture division and Oxbow (surfing equipment). But this was the end of an era and after Felix Sulzberger left the Group, Reiner Pichler took the helm as new CEO in 2016 to pursue a less expansive, more focussed strategy, as requested by the Board and in particular by the main shareholders. CEO Pichler & team (Sacha, our guest, joined 2 years ago) are implementing the strategy, even declaring a few months ago that parts of the business will be sold. No sooner said than done – the day after our event, Calida announced that the Eider brand (winter sportswear) was sold to K2, the Korean group.

However, CFO Sacha Gerber’s presentation was less about history and more about changes in the markets of lingerie & sportswear. It was about the “imperious” need to address sustainability, innovation, convenience, the rapid rise of e-commerce and the necessity to develop an active omni-channel concept. He convinced us that the Calida Group, despite its size, is on the right path to becoming a champion. One proof of the pudding (Pavlova?) is that in 2017 Calida launched the first 100% degradable T-shirt. A T-shirt to die for, or a T-shirt to die in. Try it, adopt it, buy it!

Wasn’t 2017 the same year that Dame Vivienne Westwood, gave her advice to new designers about fashion waste? “Buy less, choose well, make it last! If we had culture instead of consumption, we would not be in this environmental mess” she said. Maybe the Grande Dame has got a point! A statistic shows that ¾ of millennials are willing to pay more for high quality and sustainable products. Interestingly Dame Vivienne was born the same year that Calida was founded, namely they will both celebrate their 80th birthday in a year from now! But both are so young in spirit and yet they have gravitas and sustainability!

Long live Calida!