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Interview with Francois du Chastel, founder of Chatelles

François, who founded slipper brand Chatelles, has been using Thelia for over a year. Here, he shares his experience with us!

Hello François. First of all, would you like to introduce yourself?

francois_du_chastel_portrait-a4ed9 Hello, my name is François and I’m 31. I started out working as a banker in London. I enjoyed my years there but my work did not excite me. The financial crisis raised questions about what it was I really wanted to do. This is why I launched ladies’ slipper brand Chatelles. Les Chatelles can be worn all year round, day and night, providing an attractive alternative to heels and ballet slippers.

Would you like to tell us about your business and your online shop?

Chatelles (www.mychatelles.com) is a French brand of slippers for ladies. Handmade using the finest Italian leathers, Chatelles slippers are designed and finished with great care, whilst incorporating wellbeing and elegance. We also wanted them to be as comfortable as possible, including padded latex and rubber heels.
The range of Chatelles slippers includes twenty or so models (leather, fish scales, suede, canvas and patent leather) and are customizable with a wide range of tassels and initials to choose from.

We sell throughout the world via DHL and the online shop is intended to be highly simple and effective, as well as fun. The website is illustrated with drawings which are supposed to be likable and which convey the Chatelles message: fine and uncomplicated, just like Parisians.

The brand’s history is also very important: “Chatelles began as a love story. François fell in love and offered the girl a pair of slippers he designed with a verse by Victor Hugo embossed in the inner sole “I cannot live far away” … “from you any longer”.
It worked – she fell in love with the shoes, broke up with him and left with the slippers.
François survived this blow by launching Chatelles, his own brand of slippers”.

When did your business begin and why did you go into online sales?

mychatelles.com was launched a year and a half ago. Online sales are the best way of advertising and selling brands throughout the world, with constantly lower costs. We are also planning to open a shop in Paris very soon.

Did you receive any help? Did you ask for help from any organizations?

I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by a fabulous team. There are 4 of us in total and we work with press offices in England, France and Germany.

What did you do internally and what did you have done by outside suppliers?

The website was developed by the Meedle agency, the graphic art was entrusted to a talented illustrator and shoe design to a shoe designer who had worked for Kenzo and Paul Smith, and the rest we do internally!

Are you able to provide us with a few figures concerning your online shop?

80% of sales are generated outside France, much of this in the US and Brazil. Thanks to the great work done by Meedle, we are expanding as much as possible and every new month represents a new record with regard to sales!
Depending on the press coverage, visitor numbers are between 300 and 3,000. We haven’t yet implemented a Google SEO program but we plan to do so.

Between 5 and 20 orders are made per day on the website. We also sell from sales outlets (in London, Los Angeles and in the US via Nordstrom), and we’ll soon be doing so in Printemps as well.

We deliver overnight in Europe and on the east coast of the US. It is our policy to provide customers with as much satisfaction as possible as fast as possible, and we’re working hard to achieve this.

How many models do you have on your website?

There’s just one shape, of which there are twenty or so customizable models (fish scale leather, canvas, suede and patent leather) with a wide choice of tassels and initials. Whether you prefer the simplicity of black suede or emerald green with fluorescent tassels, these slippers can be worn all year round!

How do you manage logistics and after sales service?

We use DHL for carriage, and we’re very satisfied with them. They deliver in really fast time all over the world at competitive prices.
Customers can fill in a form for sending goods back, which we put inside the box with the slippers inside, if they want a different model or size, or if they just want to request a refund. {{Everything is done internally and we do everything we can to make sure our customers are happy.}}

What do you use for advertising and for customer loyalty?

The most important thing is to have a product you’re proud of and to remember that customers always come first, after which the press comes along naturally. So far, our press coverage has been excellent, whether we’re talking about France, the EU or Japan, Brazil or the US, in well-established magazines like Glamour, Vogue, Elle etc.
We’re also appearing on a lot of the social networks (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest) used a great deal by our target customer base (women aged 15 to 60).
We haven’t yet had time to implement a customer loyalty policy but 20% of our customers come back to us of their own accord. We do all we can to satisfy them, with overnight delivery, and exchanges and refunds pretty much straight away.

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How do you feed the social networks?

Our social networks are used by bloggers who love the Chatelles brand, by our community manager who adds to them several times a week, and by journalists working with our press offices.

What is currently most difficult for you? What obstacles do you come across?

Managing our daily sales output whilst developing the brand. Banks in France do not provide funding for companies like Chatelles, despite healthy sales and satisfactory profits, under the pretext that we have been operating for less than 3 financial years, and it’s really frustrating that their criteria are so far removed from economic reality.

And what gives you the most satisfaction?

Seeing the brand grow and seeing customers coming back and keep buying, all over the world!

What advice would you give someone looking to start an e-commerce business?

Work with Meedle (http://www.meedle.fr) and pay attention to the smallest details whilst always totally respecting the customer’s needs.

And what advice would you give someone looking to sell abroad like you?

Don’t work with the French postal services (Collissimo and Chronopost), which are extremely good at losing products and only refund the cost of manufacture, a real model of worthlessness.

With regard to Thelia 2, have you tested this new version? What do you think of the new front office and the new back office?

Very practical and flexible to use, I like it a lot! Without knowing the first thing about IT, I manage to use it myself and can do my own edits.

In your opinion, are there vital functionalities that need to be added to this new version?

It would be quite good to have a “statistics” tab that lists and analyses sales by country and by product, a kind of back office Google Analytics would be really useful.

Are you planning to use Thelia 2 for your website?

We are indeed going to use version 2 of Thelia as soon as it is completely stable, and we’ll use the opportunity to completely re-work our shop and make it “responsive”.

Generally speaking, what are for you the main difficulties that people providing e-commerce have to deal with?

After-sales service must be impeccable and the back office perfectly organized.

What are your short- and medium-term objectives?

Opening a flagship store in Paris to give Chatelles a physical base and ultimately become the world’s top ladies’ slipper company!

Do you have a particular comment to make?

I’m really pleased to be using Thelia, which was chosen very appropriately by Meedle.
Thank you!!!
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