Borja Vázquez (Seville, 1977) arrives tired. He has three very young children. “We haven’t slept at all today at home, all of you who are young parents will understand,” he spontaneously acknowledges at the beginning of a talk with Sevillian entrepreneurs that serves as the context for his appointment with EL PAÍS. Vázquez, founder and president of the Sevillian company Scalpers since his birth in 2007, tells those present the history of the fashion firm, stopping chronologically at each of the company’s great milestones; he breaks down the mistakes and achievements made during the process… But in this lesson on entrepreneurship, Borja Vázquez is selling naturalness, openness, a new way of thinking about companies and companies.
Scalpers closed 2021 with a turnover of 110 million euros and an operating margin of 15% on sales. This represents an increase of 52% compared to the turnover of 2020. And judging by the forecasts for 2022, the growth inertia will continue. “The company will reach a turnover of 160 million euros, with a digital presence in more than 25 countries and a face-to-face presence in five,” says Vázquez, who recognizes how little Scalpers today resembles the fashion firm that was born in 2007 as a men’s tailoring shop. home. In each transformation process that the firm has undergone —from a boutique to a chain concept, from formal to casual clothing (which today represents 95% of sales), from menswear to integrating women’s and children’s fashion—, Scalpers has grown exponentially.
The founder of Scalpers explains how its beginnings were, but, above all, he dwells on what the keys to his immediate future are for him: “We have implemented a way of thinking outside the box that has allowed us to no longer conceive the company as a fashion brand but as a content generator, which wants to take sides not only by making clothes, but also to position ourselves in a privileged situation in the face of a parallel reality that comes with tremendous force, such as the metaverse. We are already mentally prepared to face the new technological challenges that are upon us”, he assures.
Although the prices of the company’s garments are aimed at a consumer with a medium-high purchasing power, the image they want to convey is, in theory, that of a brand that is aimed at a less conservative public. “Scalpers is synonymous with rebellion, with a desire for distinction. It’s street, cities, it’s urban: a brand that is characterized by its spirit of rebellion, represented in its logo: the skull, which in some way symbolizes that spirit of doing things differently. We are perfectly imperfect,” explains Vázquez. In his opinion, the merit of the company’s expansion is having managed to organize “very autonomous teams, with a very flat structure”, which allows them to react very quickly to changes in the markets “and that the company has not aged with its founders [el propio Vázquez y su socio y consejero delegado, Alfonso Vivancos].
With the company fully immersed in its digital transformation, the management team had already been changing course in its business model continuously since its inception. After failing in their first joint venture —an ecological vehicle washing company located in parking lots in shopping centers—, Vázquez and Vivancos had a reality check: “We liquidated after two years and ended up not only with economic credit, but also with the moral credit that family and friends had lent us.” Vázquez specifically went to work in a multinational automotive company in the morning, while at night he put drinks in bars in Madrid, “but the poison had stayed in his body. So we got some friends on board again and replicated a model that we already knew and that existed in some European capitals, but that no one had managed to professionalize in Spain: bespoke and home tailoring”, he recalls.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
“It met the requirements that we had set for ourselves to be able to restart a business: it practically had zero investment capacity, it did not involve assuming fixed expenses, and it assured us a recurring and easy cash flow because we produced counter-orders and they advanced the payment before produce the garment. This is how Scalpers was born in 2007, focused on a formal fashion market niche. “That business model was very polarized: either you spent a lot of money to make a suit or you went for a very basic, low-cost product, with very low quality and a lack of details. In the middle segment we had an opportunity. Of course, we were talking about 2007, the worst year in the history of world trade, with the permission of 2020. It was not the time for a fashion business, but we did it”, adds Vázquez.
rise and fall
From there, Scalpers created a multi-channel business model, with its own and franchised stores, a wholesale distribution to a channel of specialized stores and an incipient digital sale, “which helped us grow in the beginning”. However, the company falls precipitously after five years. “Because we were born into the crisis, we thought we were immune to it. It was stupid. In 2012 we saw a drop in sales and a pre-bankruptcy of creditors”, recalls the president without trauma. This crisis was saved thanks to the inflow of foreign capital, “obviously at the cost of a significant reduction in our holdings and our share of power and decision-making. Even so, we saw it as very positive: it represented a 180-degree turn in the company’s strategy”, he acknowledges.
Currently, the main shareholder of the company is the Trendsetters & Fashion fund (mainly controlled by Jaime Bergel and Pedro Sainz) and with it the first great revolution of Scalpers takes place: “This shift meant leaving that concept more of a boutique and turning towards a chain model, and establish a more competitive and sustainable business in the medium and long term, and that we could internationalize with more guarantees”, he explains.
Applying that philosophy, Scalpers grew exponentially: “In the first five years we had grown from one million to four million in sales; in the next five, we went from four million to 70. Thus we reached 2017, with the milestone of opening 80 stores in one year. There we marked a before and after, and it was what consolidated us as a brand”. Since then important leaps have come, such as the launch of the digital channel in 2016, the premiere of Scalpers Woman in 2017 and Scalpers Home in 2021.
Currently, the firm —with headquarters and logistics base in Seville— directly employs 1,200 people, has a presence in six countries (Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Turkey, Mexico and Chile) and has 220 physical stores in the local market and 120 corners in the English Court. However, the great bet for the future involves online sales and digital strategy. “The pandemic came and we had to close those 220 stores in one weekend. But I’ll stick with the positive part: we created a common work focus that made digital sales represent almost 30% of the company’s sales today, makes us very efficient and much more prepared for the second phase of internationalization, which is already not so much is done with physical presence”, he explains.
Although Scalpers already sells in e-commerce on a global scale, as a project it has to improve the times of B2C Ecommerce transport service in central Europe, and open new marketplaces like Farfetch, Asos, The Iconic and Myntra. “By 2023, we plan to enter the Asian market, with Tmall. At the level of our own digital assets, we launched e-wallet in Spain in March and we plan to launch our apps in Portugal, Chile and Mexico”, predicts Borja Vázquez, for whom the metaverse, probably one of the words that has generated the most questions in recent months, is the new ecosystem in which it is already germinating Scalpers as a content generator “of the rebellious people”.