With more than 400 multi-brand retailers in France and abroad, the ready-to-wear brand Stella Forest has experienced great success. According to Geoffrey Boniface, Director of Operations at Stella Forest, the brand timed its digital transition perfectly. Here is an interview with Aline Abeya, Sales Manager France and Benelux at Webhelp Payment Services.

How is the Stella Forest brand organised?

Stella Forest has been operating in B2B since was founded in 1998. The brand has 14 stores and more than 400 B2B customers, half of which are export customers. Before Covid, my business plan was to double the number of stores, and our website wasn’t a major priority.
At that time, India was our main supplier. But with COVID-19, we made two changes:

  • in terms of sourcing, we decided to shift the focus closer to home. This led us to seek out suppliers in Tunisia, Morocco, Portugal and Italy, in an effort to be less dependent on one supplier country – India in this case – and to increase our responsiveness. Our aim is to produce “just enough”, by which I mean not to overproduce. And this has proved successful, as our stocks are now very well managed.
  • in terms of digital, we made a U-turn. In the past, we had been a little disappointed in many areas, so we felt we needed to bring in a specialist partner. We’re now working with WShop, and we are very pleased with this partnership.

Although, we did have to insist with our own sales teams that the web is not a competitor, quite the opposite in fact. We provided training on this subject and will continue to do so. Our digital transformation has led to any major criticism or concerns among our B2B customers.
In order to take things further, my priority is to recruit two people to manage our website, covering everything from integration to merchandising and supervision.

How do you manage the Stella Forest brand and products on social media?

Less than a year ago, we recruited an influence manager who is doing a really good job with our brand and products. She mainly works on Instagram. Since then, several of my retailers have been telling me that some customers go in to see them with the Instagram photo of the product! So our communication investments will primarily be in this channel.

I think this way of working in fashion –with an international payment partner like Webhelp Payment Services– is the way forward.

How does the partnership between Stella Forest and Webhelp Payment Services work?

We started working with them about ten years ago, for payment security services. We then realised that, if we wanted to enter international wholesale, we would require a high level of expertise. This would enable us to provide the best possible local payment methods.
In fact, we realised very early on that it was complicated to receive payments from foreign purchasers. Cheques, bank cards, drafts: all the payment methods are very different, as are the payment terms, especially the deadlines. Not to mention the language and translation issues. And finally, let’s face it, in some countries it is very difficult to get paid!
But it’s not Stella Forest’s job to chase after payments or to master a dozen languages –we prefer to focus on our brand. In addition, Webhelp Payment Services gives us excellent knowledge of our customers: everything is very transparent and responsive.
For a few months now, we have been offering the ‘pay-in-three-for-free’ plan –in wholesale, this tends to be referred to as ‘payment in three installments after shipping’– which works really well!
In short, what I like about Webhelp Payment Services is their ability to adapt to our problems, which vary greatly from one country to another, and even from one customer to another. Every day, Webhelp Payment Services provides us with a crucial service: they collect payments from our customers. I think this way of working in fashion – with an international payment partner – is the way to go.

Who’s Next is a great trade show for Stella Forest.

Stella Forest is exhibiting at Who’s Next and is using the CXMP platform. What are the benefits of this?

WSN’s  Who’s Next is a great trade show for Stella Forest: we have been doing it for years and, thanks to its new CXMP marketplace, we continue to enjoy the benefits of the trade show throughout the year.
The CXMP platform has two advantages: firstly, it enables buyers to consolidate their relationships with suppliers and sellers, and secondly, it allows brands like Stella Forest to reach a wider customer base, for example, through online catalogues. Before the pandemic, we didn’t think we’d be able to show collections virtually, but it’s working very well.
We were one of the first test vendors on this marketplace, and we don’t regret it. Here again, we work with Webhelp Payment Services.
What’s more, thanks to CXMP, we can extend conversations with our contacts and partners beyond the three or four days that a physical trade show lasts. This opens up the possibility of finding new export partners. We are on course for growth!


Stella Forest: a bit of history
By the age of 10, Christel Boniface already knew that she wanted to be a fashion designer. In 1998, she embarked on the Stella Forest adventure, renting a few square meters in Paris as her base. Her vision was to produce exclusive prints and “a poetic, soft, delightful brand, with smooth and comfortable designs”. She quickly gained success and, in 2008, the brand celebrated winning its 200th multi-brand customer. Today, Stella Forest boasts 14 stores and has more than 400 B2B customers, half of which are export customers, with around 50 employees. What are the next steps for growth? Continuing to develop our digital presence and our network of stores.

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