Words Mark Renton
Elena Reckzeh-Gogoll has taken the place of her father Wolfgang, in managing Colibris, a brand built up through a deep knowledge of consumer need
In Eyebook nr 18 your father told us about the success of a brilliant idea: to provide the slightest faces with the opportunity to wear fashionable and design frames. Do you think that the final customer is now more ‘aware’ and demanding?
I think that the selection of frames for petite faces in optical stores could be even larger, so that buying glasses is a great experience for people with slim heads and you don't have to leave the store with a compromise. We perceive that end customers with small faces are well informed and specifically looking for glasses that fit. Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, our platform ‘Colibris Click & Connect’, which has been around since 2016, has been very busy. final customers can select up to 4 frames online and have them sent to their local optician. The consultation then takes place there. We currently offer this service only in Germany.
Your family is all involved in the business, it's a sort of ‘legacy’: after your father it's your turn now (Elena became managing partner in September 2021). How important is this family relationship in building a successful business story?
The fact that Colibris is not just any company, but a family business, gives the work a sense of purpose that I don't know from any other context. you work on something that is a kind of life's work, which in the best case will outlast your own life. for me, it is a great honour to follow in my parents' footsteps and I take on the task with a strong sense of responsibility. Succession is a very important and sensitive phase in the family business. I have the greatest respect for the work of my parents and at the same time there are of course things that I would like to change. In doing so, it is important for me to proceed cautiously and to take everyone with me, the family, the employees, but also, of course, our customers. My expertise as a business psychologist helps me in this process of change. To be specific about changes: one of my current projects is the further development of the brand, which will become visible and tangible in the coming months, for example in the form of a new corporate identity and a new corporate design.
What do you think are the main distinctive aspects of Colibris compared with other independent brands in the market?
Certainly, an important aspect is that we are a family business and therefore attach importance to a sustainable and long-term development of the company. In addition, we have a very close relationship and a good understanding of our customers through our two eyewear stores in Lübeck. We know the needs of Opticians and are also deeply in touch with our final customers. So, in addition to our collection, we are always developing physical and digital products for the specialized trade. for example, our ‘Colibris Manufaktur’, where many of our acetate frames can be individually adapted to the needs of the final customer’s face as a one-of-a-kind pair of glasses.
How did Colibris face the COVID crisis and how are you managing the new challenges? How has your business changed in the last year and in which direction are you moving in?
Fortunately, we came through the COVID crisis well, which was certainly also due to the fact that we implemented new digital offerings such as a collection presentation via video meeting from our professional video showroom. This allowed us to stay in contact with our partner opticians despite the lack of trade fairs and to present the new products and bestsellers to them. Even today, I have weekly appointments with opticians from countries where we do not have a sales force.
What news will you be presenting in the second part of 2021?
Our collection for petite faces is divided into several design series, which differ in material composition and shape language. This year we have added a bold new series with a more striking attitude, which will be expanded in the fall. There are also new models in the very popular stainless-steel series with beautiful engravings.
What are the main countries you're developing outside Germany? And how are you managing the process of expansion of your market?
Besides germany, our neighboring countries are important markets for us. We have a sales force in these countries or travel there ourselves, making it easy to launch new products there. We are also expanding our business relationships overseas and Scandinavia. In doing so, we are relying less on trade shows, as in the past, and more on our digital channels.
Digital or physical: what's your favorite approach towards buyers and clients?
Of course, face-to-face contact is the best. But I think that a mix of both is the most successful. It is very important for us to offer fast and good solutions for our customers' concerns. for example: If an optician wants to buy new products, he can do so independently in our B2B online store 24/7, in personal contact during a representative visit, or flexibly, in terms of time, during the digital collection presentation via video meeting.
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