Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Gift boxes: Wonderbox increasing cruise speed


French gift box leader Wonderbox is acquiring foreign competitors at a rapid pace, in order to consolidate its position on the European market. As one of the few survivors on the recent and bubbling market, it sets an example of sound management, ability to listen to the market continuously and marketing initiative.

It was a rough ride, surviving the market consolidation, and most firms didn’t make it. In the early days of the gift-box market, competitors appeared all over the radar, but died like flies quickly thereafter, despite some promising yearlings. On the French market only, by 2012, numerous gift box suppliers had disappeared from the market, either through bankruptcy, or absorbed. Former Weekend Tour CEO Alexis Vervelle says: “As early as 2010, the gift box market collapsed, with a 40% market drop over the past year. As the fad passed, the economic crisis added, the entire sector was hit [...] In 2011, we decided, along with investors, to sell the company [...] As cashflow grew increasingly tight, we hurried the sale effort and went touring [...] And because problems never come alone, the “Arab spring” limited our range on the travelling sector. Destinations such as Egypt or Tunisia did little to put out nascent fires breaking out through their offices.” Within months, the market contracted, and companies such as Weekend Tour, Magic day and others, drew the iron curtain.
Wonderbox was already on the market when it consolidated and survived it. CEO Fabrice Lepine attributes this success to the fact that Wonderbox put robust processes in place, despite not really needing to, when the market was generous. Those processes were continuously streamlined, as they still are today. One of those processes is the automatic launch of a program named Dream Testers, where a Wonderbox employee is sent out to secretly test a partner’s service, in order to assess quality and respect of partnership agreements. Fabrice Lepine says : “Our quality control tool gives us a 360° view of our activity, both for our customers and our partners, in France and abroad. We have access to the entire history of a customer/partner relationship, regardless of location. We have therefore chosen to use the same tool in all the European countries where we operate.” As a result, when the market became unstable, Wonderbox had already set up all the processes and securities necessary to resist the turbulence. And when the market stabilized, the French firm was in the best position to launch its acquisition strategy over Europe, which it has been doing for a few years now.
Indeed, Wonderbox bought Dutch competitor GiftForYou, and Belgian Vivabox, in 2016 and 2015 and more recently the Portuguese Lifecooler in 2018. With these acquisitions, Wonderbox has achieved the status of European player, either as leader or challenger, according to the countries. “We proudly display our European ambitions. We are leader on the French and Spanish markets, since 2014, and are challengers in Italy, Belgium and Switzerland”, explains co-founder Bertile Burel. Since the acquisition of Vivabox, Wonderbox has become a leader in Belgium as well.
Fabrice Lepine intends to maintain the method which was used throughout the first phase of Wonderbox’s development. The CEO established, from the start, that rigorous management practices would remain at the core of the company, instead of running after easy pickings, and that flexibility, open-mindedness and ability to listen should be preserved throughout the life of the company. “We intend to increase our innovation perspectives to the maximum, by remaining accessible to our partners. This strategy can be implemented in different ways, such as consumer studies, or internal questionnaires and interviews with our partners, which enable us to continuously better our offers. Beyond innovation management, we have a desire for perpetual improvement”, he says in an interview with a French media outlet. In these new developments, Wonderbox has therefore decided that the mother company would not roll over the identity of the new subsidiaries, but instead maintain local identities and listen to the expertise which local partners have of their specific markets and cultures. Marketing and packaging, for instance, are preserved beyond the acquisition.
The future, whatever it may hold, will likely be explored with the same mindset. As part of its agile identity, Wonderbox has proven in the past its ability to remain flexible and make difficult choices in its development.. In all likelihood, future developments will be as careful and methodical as they have been in the past. But, most of all, they are bound to be many, as Wonderbox’s development appetite over the European continent is nowhere near dwindling.
Whenever a trend picks up, just as gift boxes became popular at the beginning of the 2000s, numerous companies will launch to reap easy benefits. When the tide pulls out, however, only those who have resisted the sirens of self-indulgence, and acquired streamlined process despite no immediate necessity, will survive the market’s ebb. Wonderbox inscribed thoroughness within its management DNA, while remaining flexible and open-minded. Today, it is in the right position to take over all of Europe - a process which is already well underway.