Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The retail research team at Exane BNP Paribas felt that to give clients the best insight, they had to learn how to run a shop. So they’ve started selling the most iconic British Christmas clothing item -- the reindeer sweater.
After help from Marks & Spencer Group Plc and online fashion retailer Asos Plc, analysts Ben Spruntulis, Simon Bowler and Graham Renwick have spent the last week posting out so-called Kudolph sweaters. About 400 of the festive garments were stored in a meeting room at the brokerage’s London office.
“We’ve spent a decade modeling retailers on spreadsheets,” Spruntulis said by phone. “If we really want to understand the complexities, decision-making and risks of being a retailer and convey that to investors in an engaging way we have to set up a retail business for ourselves.”
The Exane BNP Paribas retail analysts are among those that are seeking first-hand involvement in the industries they cover to gain a better understanding. Earlier this year, the brokerage’s tobacco researcher James Bushnell and his team set up their own e-cigarette brand called Electric Dream.
Spruntulis and his colleagues gained a helping hand from some of the companies they follow. Asos hosts their store on its website, where the sweaters are sold for 25 pounds ($40). And Marks & Spencer clothing executives explained the processes of getting a garment from the design stage to the shop floor.
“We obviously didn’t know much about sourcing suppliers or marketing, so Marks & Spencer and Asos were really helpful in explaining about designing, sourcing and how to use digital marketing,” 34-year-old Spruntulis said.
The analysts are being supplied by a knitwear factory in Leicester, central England, which can get products to them quicker than suppliers in the Far East or Turkey.
The project has been so insightful “that even if we didn’t sell a single jumper it’s still cheaper than a four-day analyst trip to New York,” Spruntulis said.
Avid fans of Christmas sweaters -- which turned from embarrassing holiday gift to iconic knitwear when Oscar winner Colin Firth donned one in the first Bridget Jones movie more than a decade ago -- the analysts were confident their product would be an easy sell, even among more sober-attired colleagues.
“We knew there would be a market -- guys like us who don’t take themselves too seriously,” Spruntulis said.
The analysts designed their unisex sweaters, which come in green, red and pink, featuring reindeers in various poses. They have already sold 180 among colleagues, friends and clients. All profits will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Spruntulis said they expect to raise 4,000 pounds for the charity.
“They have created quite a buzz,” he said. “We had the CEO of a major European building-materials company here the other day who had heard about them and bought one.”
Andrew Gwynn, who covers the food retailers for Exane, said he’s very happy with his red sweater.
“It’s for a good cause and what better way to channel Colin Firth on Christmas Day,” he said. “I’m actually quite impressed with the quality and fit. Not sure it will become staple attire at meetings though.”
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