Nathalie Remy was well into a lauded career as a consultant for the global powerhouse McKinsey when she was invited to advise the French tabletop brand Christofle. Remy put together a strategy for how the 190-year-old company could revitalize its brand and re-energize a passionate but demoralized workforce. Then, as is the way with consulting, she left for the next challenge.
Seven years later, in March 2018, Remy’s friend Patrick Chalhoub—joint chief executive of the Chalhoub group, which owns Christofle—invited her to take another look at the brand, this time as CEO. Her first step was to see how many of her recommendations from the initial consultation had been implemented. The grand total? None.
“My first two months I spent time in the factories, in the stores, with the teams—and it was pretty clear the direction we needed to take,” she says. “Everybody was saying the same thing: We don’t have a strategy.”
In a conversation with host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of the Business of Home podcast (sponsored by Crypton and Chairish), Remy gives an inside look at her revitalization plan for Christofle, sharing the key points of her strategy for turning the heritage brand around.
Get a mission. One of Remy’s first steps was to clearly define a brand mission for Christofle: Develop the “art of sharing.” It’s a broad statement, but it helps to clarify the brand’s big-picture decisions (like choosing to focus on a product selection that encourages gatherings and gifts) as well as small-scale strategies (like framing marketing language). Remy also says it’s important to live the mission inside and out: “To develop the art of sharing … [It’s] the products we develop and sell, the experience we offer to our customers, and the way we work as a company—no silos across function, across borders ... It was an internal as well as external mission.”
Execution is as important as strategy. Coming from the world of consulting—where outside advisers offer a series of steps to management, then move on—Remy was used to a fast-moving, frictionless approach to business. Acting as CEO of a large company, she has developed an appreciation for the grind of getting things done, day-to-day. “The challenge is bigger than I anticipated, but it’s not a strategic challenge, it’s an execution challenge. … How do you get 500 people to move in the same direction? It requires a bit more patience than I used to have, but I’m learning.”
Luxury is consistency. Christofle has a wide range of products, some of which retail for tens of thousands of dollars, others for hundreds. Remy says it’s essential for luxury brands to offer pieces at an entry-level price point, but crucial that these pieces feel as special as the top-market items. Consistency is important not just across product selection, but across locations. “I think luxury is all about consistency. Our customers travel. We might serve them in Paris one day, then in New York another day and in Shanghai another day,” she says. “I want them to have this combination of: It’s consistent and at the same time it’s personalized. A bit different, but not too much—that’s the equilibrium we need to find.”
Change a lot—but keep the stuff that matters. Remy’s overhaul of Christofle has been comprehensive. She doesn’t shy away from the fact that there’s been turnover, new hires, and significant internal change. On top of that, the company is undergoing a full rebrand, and a refresh at most of its 50 locations across the globe. However, Remy hasn’t tweaked the core of the brand’s strength: its prowess as a silversmithing company. Christofle’s atelier in Normandy will remain, as will its master craftsmen. When revitalizing a heritage brand, it’s important to cut away a lot of dead wood, but not too close to the roots.