Discussion at Delvaux: how exclusive should luxury be?

Facade of Delvaux store
Foto: lentamart / Shutterstock.com

At the Delvaux head office, a well-known dilemma in the luxury sector flares up: are discounts and platforms an option, or should exclusivity take precedence? The quarrel even threatens to lead to a reorganisation.


Turnover versus image

At Delvaux, the inventor of the modern handbag, CEO Marco Probst and former chairman Jean-Marc Loubier diametral face each other in a conflict that threatens to escalate. Top executive Probst, formerly also active at Hugo Boss, has a rather consumer-oriented view and believes in occasional discounts and flash sales, especially online. For example, the Belgian leather goods brand recently opened a completely new webshop.

Jean-Marc Loubier, former CEO and also an important shareholder of the luxury house together with Fung Brands, state investment fund Temasek from Singapore and the Schwennicke family, stands for the "hard line". He believes in a very exclusive image, with a price positioning at the level of Hermès and sales channelled as much as possible through its own network of boutiques.

It was Loubier who led the internationalisation of the brand, with the opening of its own stores in Asia, as well as in Milan, New York and Paris. However, he also clashed with Probst in the past: between 2018 and early 2020, following an initial conflict, Loubier himself was appointed CEO and pushed Probst out.


Power struggle at the top

In the meantime, the deposed top executive managed to turn the tables anyway and reconquered the position of CEO. Loubier also lost his seat as chairman of the board of directors. But that doesn't stop the duo from fighting again. The consequences do make themselves felt internally: anonymous sources say in newspaper De Tijd that they fear "an internal reorganisation" if the conflict is not resolved quickly.

It is even possible that there have already been casualties: Christina Zeller left at the beginning of October for "personal reasons" after nine years as artistic director of the brand. The question is whether a compromise is possible, but those involved do believe that both gentlemen can be very complementary: "Probst with his operational strengths and Loubier with his strategic insights".

In 2019, Delvaux recorded record sales of over 120 million euros, while in May, the luxury house predicted a fall in sales of 20 to 30 percent in 2020 due to the corona crisis. Meanwhile, other luxury brands announced that Asian sales are recovering faster than expected. However, Europe and the US are facing a second wave of Covid-19.