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VM Interview: Cor Monteban, international business manager at Hans Boodt Mannequins

Cor Monteban, Hans Boodt Mannequins

Q: Your role is international – so how do you assess the VM market right now?

A: “Globally the market is definitely tough. The mid-segment is falling away with lots of cheap verticals coming up, so the space we have to sell into is becoming narrower and narrower. That said, the good retailers out there are very good, and they’re growing, and multinational retailers are also filling up the gaps being left.”

Q: Are there any specific changes you’re seeing?

A: “In the past, they’d be big rollouts, but today rollouts are much smaller, and they’re also being done almost on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Clients will order a small number of units, then almost see how they go before being confident enough to order some more. Although it means they’ll eventually order the same number, doing it in smaller batches means we can’t offer the value that ordering a larger number gives straight away. Clients want quality; and they want lower prices, but to do this, they need to give us volume.”

Q: There’s been a lot of press in the fashion industry about using ‘real’ people – is this filtering down to the size of mannequin business?

A: “The size zero debate is definitely there, but it’s probably not as big as people might think. Most of our clients want a size 8 mannequin. But while they don’t want anything more skinny than that, neither are we seeing a massive change in demand for larger – some might say ‘normal’ sized – mannequins either.”

Q: So are there any other bigger trends they are looking at instead?

A: “For us, the big trend seems to be realism, which involves the finish, colour and the ability for stores to give their own identities to mannequins – such as make-up and hair styling. However, even here, flagship stores more often than not only want to showcase these in their front windows. They won’t rollout any deeper than that. Sometimes there can be too many trends, happening at once though! A current favourite is organising mannequins into groups of around five, which means having a range of mannequins that compliment each other and have different poses. But I think this is a micro-trend within a trend, so you have to be careful of what you take too much notice of.”

Q: Mannequin making is one of the oldest crafts out there – do you still see a future in it?

A: Mannequin design is definitely niche, but our business services one of the world’s largest industries, so it will definitely survive. There will always be a need for presentation – and even online businesses will use them albeit digitally. What’s often forgotten is the role mannequins can have in reducing stores’ return rates. When customers can actually see how things hang, and how they look on a body, shoppers aren’t buying blind, then getting disappointed when they get home. Return rates are ruining retail. We think mannequins can help.” 

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