La Vie en Rose, Canada's beloved specialty retailer, is on the verge of completing a seven-year digital transformation. Here’s how they did it.
For many, the French phrase la vie en rose epitomizes romance, softness, and seeing life through rose-colored glasses. It often conjures Edith Piaf’s legendary voice reaching across decades, reminding us to make room in our lives for romance.
For la Vie en Rose, Canada’s leading retailer of women’s lingerie and swimwear, romance really is everywhere. The Montreal-based enterprise serves customers in 20 countries, more than 200 retail stores, and several international franchises, and has a robust e-commerce presence.
In addition to intimates for women of every size, the boutiques also offer loungewear, sleepwear, and accessories. With an emphasis on high style, luxurious fabrics, and comfort, la Vie is a destination shopping experience both onsite and online. Their swimwear brand, Bikini Village, presents the latest fashion beachwear for men and women in a wide variety of brand and styles.
While the Canadian stores are owned by the la Vie corporation, the international sites are part of a growing network of franchises that attract passionate licensees with extensive retail experience. With stores throughout the Middle East and current market entries in Asia Pacific and the U.S., the company’s goal is to be present on every continent.
Steering the company into the technological future is its chief information officer, Éric Champagne. A supply chain expert with over 30 years of experience in IT, logistics, distribution, web development and operations, and business processes for retail, wholesale, and e-commerce, he’s leading an ambitious digital transformation.
“We’ve replaced the entire suite of systems, pretty much,” he recently told BOSS. That includes the warehouse management system, ERP, product lifestyle management system, point of sale system
the e-commerce platform, payroll and human resources systems, and business intelligence systems.
“We’re not just replacing the solutions but also going from a full on-prem ownership of the infrastructure and solutions to full SaaS cloud-based state-of-the-art technology, giving us the flexibility we need to continue our growth.”
The project required a huge cultural shift in how the corporation viewed and used IT. When he joined the company roughly seven years ago, the IT department ran all the business processes, from taking markdowns to making sure the inventory allocations would meet each boutique’s needs. Essential information came in Excel spreadsheets to IT people, who would then run the numbers through the existing system.
“Today the business units are using IT all the time. They have a power user structure inside their own departments, making sure they can use the systems properly and making sure that data is available,” he explained. “The systems are up and running and the business can use the systems the very way they were designed for. It's also there to provide upgrades, updates, new solutions and talk with the business to see what can be done to improve their processes.” Not bad for an effort that took five to seven years to complete.
At the start of the transformation, the company was ready to move on to more powerful systems. The organization’s teams took part in an RFP process that enabled them to identify their requirements for new solutions. “They drove the buy-in process by themselves. My role was to make sure they got involved. The requirement list for the ERP took over 2,000 lines and I didn't even write one of them. It all came from the different business units, which made buy-in easier because they told us what they wanted and needed.”
In the early stages, system end users did acceptance testing, gathering crucial feedback to Champagne and his team. “Because they were part of the initial launching and kickoff of the project, they felt accountable, which made them much more involved in the process.
In 2021, la Vie changed its e-commerce platform to Optimizely’s digital experience platform software as a service. “It's an easy platform to use, good for the consumer, and it's also an easy platform for our back-office users,” he said. The solution features built-in CMS that makes it easy to upload web data that changes frequently, such as product promotions.” On the consumer side, the solution’s flexibility keeps the online shopping experience dynamic and enjoyable.
At present, Champagne is overhauling their order management system, which will give la Vie buy online, pick up in-store capability, and shop in-store and ship to the customer. “We're getting all these bells and whistles that consumers are looking for today to make sure that they have a full omnichannel experience,” he said. “It will enable a transparent virtual versus brick-and-mortar experience and make sure the customer gets what they’re looking for fast. My goal with the different systems, including most of the e-commerce, is to make sure that our consumer can access our product whenever they want and however they want.”
Champagne’s intention as CIO is to provide modern tools for better business outcomes. He admits that some retailers balk at the price of digitization, positing that for most businesses it costs 1.5-3% of their revenue. “Obviously, if you do software development, it will be a bigger percentage, but if you're in retail, about 2% of the top line is the cost of IT.”
A staunch advocate of modernization, Champagne advises retailers to take off their rose-colored glasses and plunge into technological change. “Replace your legacy systems. Get them out the door and get new systems in place. It's difficult to change legacy systems into new modern technology. But do it. It's not that expensive, and not doing it is going to cost a lot more than doing it.”
La Vie en Rose is the leading Canadian specialty lingerie retailer catering to women aged 25-45. Known as bra specialists, la Vie en Rose also offers a range of lingerie, sleepwear, loungewear, and swimwear. Acquired in 1996 by President and CEO François Roberge, the chain now counts over 400 boutiques worldwide, divided into store concepts: la Vie en Rose and la Vie en Rose Outlet.
Since the beginning of its international expansion in 2004, la Vie en Rose has opened more than 100 boutiques outside Canada, in over 20 countries including India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Morocco. With many new store openings planned in several countries, including in the U.S. in summer 2024, the future is quite promising.
La Vie en Rose, headquartered in Montreal, is a true Canadian success story and continues its international growth.
GORGEOUS LINGERIE DENOTING TIMELESS CLASS AND ELEGANCE
The brand delivers exceptional women’s lingerie, sleepwear and swimwear collections while staying true to the company motto: it's all about natural beauty, confident sophistication and sensual passion. La Vie en Rose fulfills its customers' desires by offering an array of well-fitted bras and specialty lingerie selections designed for every silhouette, every look and every occasion. Collections include: gorgeous satin lingerie, comfortable bras and panties, cozy cotton pajamas, fashionable swimwear, and casual-cool leisure and loungewear. Affordable fashions of a great fit, comfort and value.
Visit our online store at www.lavieenrose.com
La Vie en Rose
3055 Viau Street.
Montréal (Québec), H1V 3J5
Phone Number: 877.328.7673