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Groupe SEB Nordic growth driven by ecommerce

“We’re entering a new and exciting era – I’ve never been as confident about the future as I am now.” Says Guillaume Lasnier, Danish Country Manager for Groupe SEB, the world's largest manufacturer of cookware.

According to Guillaume, the owner of iconic brands such as Moulinex, Rowenta and Tefal has enjoyed a buoyant year. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns across Europe have led consumers to restrict spending on vacations or visiting restaurants, and instead, invest in replacing or upgrading their appliances and electrical goods. As well as its famous non-stick pans and other food preparation equipment, the business sells a range of domestic appliances such as vacuum cleaners, irons and hair styling tools including hair clippers – “one of Groupe SEB’s top-selling products,” says Guillaume, in areas where salons were also forced to close. 

Since it acquired OHB Nordica in 2015, Groupe SEB has been expanding its operations in the Nordics. And even before the onset of COVID-19, has enjoyed fantastic growth in the region. Unknown factors at the beginning of the pandemic meant Groupe SEB was reacting to rapidly changing circumstances. This included the closure of its manufacturing facility in Wuhan, where the pandemic first originated. Though, as Guillaume explains, the strength of the business's ecommerce channels meant Groupe SEB was prepared for an unprecedented uptake in online purchasing.

Ecommerce is essential to Groupe SEB’s ongoing success, says Guillaume, and a key element of its global strategy. With online sales growing by over 50% in several markets, the business recognised the evolving commercial environment as an opportunity to maximise the e-tail opportunity while it was fresh. This included consolidating partnerships with e-retail giants like Amazon and Alibaba, as well as key domestic players within Groupe SEB’s core categories.

As the “Coca Cola of domestic equipment,” consumers expect to find Groupe SEB products available anywhere at any time, says Guillaume, and the business is always reviewing and expanding its channels to mirror changing buying behaviours. While maintaining strong relationships with traditional suppliers remains a priority, Groupe SEB is exploring ways to further leverage the ecommerce opportunity moving forward, such as selling direct to consumers. Establishing an effective D2C channel is essential, Guillaume says, as purchasing domestic appliances online becomes increasingly embedded in consumer buying behaviour:

“The success of online channels is evident. And it’s also clear that more consumers of all ages have discovered the fruits of purchasing online during this period. Even though online sales are now stabilising as markets open up again, the online business is bigger than it was before the crisis and I expect it will remain this way. That’s very exciting and challenging at the same time. Key to our overall strategy is a focus on omnichannel communication and creating better links and interactions with consumers across multiple on and offline platforms.”

Building ecommerce capability is certainly a focus for Groupe SEB. And the business was delighted to hire a new E-Tail Key Account Manager in October, assisted by Nigel Wright Group. One of the key challenges when hiring in the Nordics, Guillaume explained, is articulating the Groupe SEB-OBH Nordica story and selling its proposition to the market. While OBH Nordica and brands like Tefal and Rowenta are familiar names in the region, fewer people know Groupe SEB itself. According to Guillaume, "Nigel Wright did a great job in creating bespoke marketing materials to support the recruitment process, which articulated the Groupe SEB-OBH Nordica ownership and structure as well as our values, vision and ambitions the future.”

He added: “I’ve worked with the team at Nigel Wright for several years now and I’m always impressed with how consultants can assimilate themselves with Groupe SEB. The level of communication is tremendous. They speak our language and understand our challenges – it’s a genuine partnership.”

During the last five years, as Country Manager for Denmark, Guillaume has created a hybrid culture that combines the strengths of Groupe SEB and OBH Nordica, successfully attracting new talent while retaining key employees. The OBH Nordica acquisition was a “real game-changer” for the French consortium in the region, he explained. And acquiring strong local businesses is indicative the company’s success worldwide: “Our ‘glocal’ model allows Groupe SEB to leverage OBH Nordica’s regional strengths and reputation, while OBH Nordica benefits from additional investment and resources, as well as the opportunity to magnify its brand beyond the Nordic region.”

While Groupe SEB’s regional leadership team may be experts at integrating companies and cultures, managing remote employees is something they’ve had to improve upon during the last few months. “It was a new challenge for many of us,” says Guillaume. And investing in the best video-conferencing tools and increasing the frequency of communication during this period, were best-practices the business adopted to boost employee morale and engagement. “It was important that staff recognised that we’re all in this crisis together, working at home and in a different environment than usual,” he commented.

As the business enters 2021, Guillaume expects to continue adapting to this “new normal” environment. “The key thing is that we’re on a journey and we’re not alone on that journey,” he says. And while it’s still too early to comprehend the full impact COVID-19 has had on employee engagement and customer relationships, Guillaume is certain that Groupe SEB is "doing the right things to protect employees, meet the needs of consumers, and harness the power of our diverse brand portfolio.”

He commented: “We’ve played an important role in supporting consumers in 2020 and consequently enjoyed tremendous growth during what has been a challenging period for many businesses.”

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