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Ankorstart programme


Retailers’ stories: the journey of Robin to the opening of his fashion store, “LFC - Be Fresh Wear French”

26 February 2024

Robin Chauvin is a retail entrepreneur that successfully launched his business, turning his retail vision into reality. He opened his shop “LFC – Be Fresh Wear French” in December 2023 and we are proud to say that Ankorstart played an essential role in his entrepreneurial endeavor.
In this interview you can learn more about his inspiring journey, his innovative business concept, and discover the key factors that led to his success.

Andrea Landi

Thank you very much for participating in this discussion, Robin. Could you share a bit about yourself, your background, where you're from, and how you became a shop owner?

Robin Chauvin Certainly. My name is Robin, and I'm 31 years old. I come from Châteauroux, the town where I decided to establish my shop called “LFC - Be Fresh Wear French”. The name indicates the union between French and global fashion, as I believe that French fashion is an integral part of today's international society.

Before starting my entrepreneurial venture, I was a civil servant for 10 years, primarily working in the "Attractivité du Territoire" department for the Châteauroux municipality. My role involved promoting the appeal of Châteauroux, supporting its transformation to an attractive reality in the process of economic growth. Thanks to this experience I was able to understand the local dynamics and the desire among Châteauroux’s residents for novelty and diversity. I've always been driven by self-learning, continuously evolving through various professional roles until I finally decided to start my own business in retail.

So, what made you decide to open a shop, particularly a fashion boutique?

Robin Chauvin I've always had a passion for fashion, and that's what made me want to open a fashion store. But it was also about responding to the needs of a new generation, young men like me in their thirties and forties, seeking unique products. I wanted to offer something different from the standardised offerings elsewhere. I believe everyone deserves to express their individuality, regardless of whether they live in a big city or not.

What I love about independent retail is that it is not about “massively” selling products, but rather creating a positive experience for our customers. When someone walks into my store, I want them to feel good and find products that suit them. That is why I carefully curate my selection and I focus on showcasing smaller brands that offer something distinctive.

And it's not just about selling products; it's about building a sense of community. I organise events like our recent participation in the local Pride parade, showing that businesses like ours support diversity and inclusion. Independent retailers like me are not just sellers, we are advocates for our town and its people, we want to create experiences and foster connections within our community.

Indeed, and that is what makes your business different from large fashion chains. Could you elaborate on how you differentiated yourself from competitors, especially big fashion brands.

Robin Chauvin Absolutely. LFC is more than just a retail space. Unlike large mainstream chains that serve millions of customers and therefore focus on mass appeal and standardisation, my boutique offers curated selections from French brands known for their quality and uniqueness. I don't have a massive customer base but I am proud to know that the customers I do have are loyal to my boutique. They've found their go-to spot where they can find the products they like. Moreover, the personalised service and community engagement sets my shop apart.

Thank you Robin, now that we are clear on what makes your boutique unique can you tell us more about the concept behind it?

Robin Chauvin Absolutely. While I use some digital communication and I am present on social media, I decided to create a physical rather than digital store because I wanted to be close to my customers in person, to fully embrace the proximity of a brick-and-mortar store and allow my customers to experience the quality of products in person.

In my boutique, the main focus is men's ready-to-wear fashion. While there are many options for women and mixed-gender stores, there isn’t much choice dedicated exclusively to men, especially the modern, urban man who values style without being overly fashion-forward. When curating my shop assortment, I have three types of men in mind. With these three personas in mind I select products tailor to different preferences and styles, ensuring that every customer finds something they like.

That's a very clear vision. Do you also integrate other product categories in your assortment?

Robin Chauvin Yes, I've expanded beyond just clothing to offer a complete range of men's essentials. This includes beauty products, accessories, footwear and more. My goal is to become the one-stop destination for men's fashion needs. And even more than that, I want my clients to feel like they're part of something. By organising events around shared interests like sports, culture, and art, I would like to create a sense of belonging.

It's clear that your retail space is more than a place to shop. Thinking back on your journey that led you to your shop opening, what were the essential steps that allowed you to start your business?

Robin Chauvin There were many essential moments that led me to where I am today. Firstly, I took the courage to resign from my job to start my own business, which was both exciting and scary at the same time. Next, I focused on refining my business idea. I knew I wanted to offer fashion products but I had to clearly define who was the audience I wanted to serve and what were the product categories that I wanted to offer. Here, the Ankorstart programme played a crucial role, providing invaluable support in navigating the complexities of retail assortment and inventory management.

I learned about Ankorstore from friends who suggested it as a solution for sourcing high-quality brands and then I discovered the free programme for shop openers. I got in touch with Hugo, a retail expert from Ankorstart, and he guided me from the very beginning of my project. He helped me shape my initial ideas into a concrete plan for a ready-to-wear boutique. We brainstormed on product selection, brand partnerships, and even broader aspects like creating a community around the store. With the help of Hugo, I was able to define my assortment strategy, find the products that aligned with my vision and secure favourable terms with suppliers.

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What else can you tell us about the Ankorstart support you benefited from?

Robin Chauvin After the clear definition of the concept for my store, we went into the technical aspects, such as working on the assortment tools provided by Ankorstart. These tools were crucial for calculating costs, margins, and defining a balanced initial stock—which was fundamental for my business plan. But even more than that, these tools made a significant difference in boosting the credibility of my project to banks and investors. And they were impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of the Ankorstore platform, especially given the challenges faced by traditional retail models.

When you registered for Ankorstore, I suppose your company wasn't even created yet, right? You were still at your previous job?

Robin Chauvin Yes, I was still working, and it took me a while to get everything sorted out. But that's what's great about the Ankorstart programme—you don't need a fully established business to get support. With just a vision in mind I received guidance and accessed numerous resources. It was motivating, to know that someone was there to guide me and when I presented the assortment chart to my potential investors, it was something new and impressive for them.

So with the help of Ankorstart you selected brands and products for your store, is that right?

Robin Chauvin That’s right. I narrowed down my criteria to French brands, quality, and style. Hugo from Ankorstore helped me understand how to utilise their search engine effectively. This way I was able to refine my searches, eventually arriving at a shortlist of brands that aligned with my vision.

And when did this selection process start to materialise in your mind, imagining how it would look in your store?

Robin Chauvin It was a gradual process. At first, it was just a vision in my mind. But as I did more research and comparisons with my competitors, certain brands started to stand out as perfect fits for my boutique. Now, seeing the positive feedback from customers, it's clear that the selection process was effective and successful.

Absolutely. And once you had your assortment and budget defined, it was time to place orders. How did that process unfold, especially in relation to your store's opening date?

Robin Chauvin So, regarding placing orders, Hugo and I initially met back in September, at the start of the new school year, through a video conference. We set a first order date about one month after I had finalised my assortment, but then there were some delays in setting up the business so we didn't quite stick to our timeline, and we ended up postponing it until mid-November. By then, I already had a mid-December opening deadline for the store. With Hugo's help, I also received discount codes from brands on the platform, which allowed me to secure discounts on orders, some valid for a single use and others for several months. This was incredibly valuable, especially for a startup where every penny counts. It was a game-changer for me, enabling me to invest in certain products where I saw strong demand from customers.

Opening in December, these discounts on my first orders and the very fast restocking that Ankorstore provides, made the success of my first festive season. In fact, I managed to sell out my initial stock just 10 days after opening, which made me excited and confident for the successful start of my business venture.

It sounds like you had quite a strategic approach to managing your finances and inventory. And I understand you opted for a 90-day deferred payment option?

Robin Chauvin Yes, indeed. I sometimes paid directly on orders, while other times, I took advantage of the deferred payment options. It's a significant advantage to have that flexibility, allowing us to manage cash flow effectively and relieve some stress. It’s very valuable to be able to test new products and adjust quantities without immediate financial pressure, especially in the early stages of a business.

That's truly impressive and inspiring. Looking back on your journey, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Robin Chauvin I'd say, trust your instincts and go for it. Moments of doubts and excitement are part of the journey, so it’s important to take the time to listen to yourself and reassess your strategy when needed.

My biggest advice is to surround yourself with professionals who can offer guidance and expertise, especially when starting out. You don’t need to be an expert on everything, sometimes it is better to allow experts to help you out, this includes local business players and platforms like Ankorstore.

Would you recommend the Ankorstart programme to other aspiring retailers?

Robin Chauvin Absolutely, without hesitation. I had a truly positive experience and I encourage others to join the programme. It's been fundamental in my success, and I'm grateful for the support and opportunities it has provided me.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Robin. Your story is truly inspiring, and I'm sure it will resonate with many aspiring entrepreneurs out there.

Robin Chauvin It's been my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity, and see you soon.

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