Last year Pioneer turned 40. Though for a jeans label 40 years is not yet biblical, the mother of the brand, Ahlers AG in Herford, Germany, can nevertheless look back with pride at the successful history of its oldest offspring. And rightfully so, because the Herford people got a lot of things right. Careful guidance rather than hectic maneuvering while strategically aligning the brand, and reinvigoration with a youthful flair from time to time. With these anti-aging treatments, Pioneer may be able to survive the next few decades.
Over 10 years ago, in 2007, Peter Kelzenberg, then 49 years old, came to Westphalia to lead “the jeans with the number” –the famous Pioneer claim from the 1980s – into the future. Ten years later, another younger but experienced employee has been taken on board: Bertram M. Laufer, who was in charge of key accounts for, among others, Big Star, Scotch & Soda and Lee/VF, has been a brand manager with Colorado since 2012 and successfully repositioned the brand. He has been on the bridge at Ahlers since April 2018. Laufer has been tasked with opening up new markets for Pioneer.
Sportswear International spoke with CEO Peter Kelzenberg (PK) and Ahlers' new Sales Director International Bertram M. Laufer (BL) about what Ahlers currently has in mind for Pioneer.
You have been managing director of the Pioneer brand since 2007. What do you expect from Bertram Laufer?
PK: The PIONEER brand has developed very positively in recent years. With Dirk Bornemann, our national sales director, the label has expanded successfully, especially on the German market. Today, in the mainstream denim and non-denim segment, we are an important component the product range of many customers. And we are all the more pleased that we were able to win over an experienced international sales director with Mr. Laufer, so that this development can continue to be pursued outside Germany as well. His job is to further develop existing core markets and open up new markets.
Mr. Laufer, what do you think about the slogan “The jeans with the number?” Do you think it should be revived or allowed to disappear?
BL: At the moment we are not counting on this slogan. As a result, “the jeans with the number" will not be used in our current campaign.
How do you see Pioneer’s positioning at the moment and in what direction is the brand going in the future?
BL: PIONEER has a clear message: We want to project an image of continuity and reliability, provide perfect fits and top value for money, score points with a competent NOS and SOS program and maintain high-quality workmanship and consistent product quality. Retail is under pressure in many areas. We want to be a strong and fair partner. Successful sales concepts provide retail stores with above-average store space productivity. We are successfully positioned in the middle of the market and that should not change.
Should the brand be rejuvenated? If so, what action is being taken to do this?
PK: No, that's not planned. To us, a general rejuvenation of the brand would not be effective.
Is digitization a topic for Pioneer, Mr. Laufer?
BL: Yes, the Ahlers Group is increasingly working on this issue. Digitization starts with product development and leads us to digital solutions for retailers and consumers.
You have already been turning Pioneer into a lifestyle brand for 11 years. Do you want to become even more fashionable?
PK: Current topics and trends are taken up at an early stage and implemented commercially. The brand continues to evolve, while the fashion category stays in perfect tune with our mid-fashion target customers. PIONEER deliberately chooses not to be at the top of the fashion movement.
You have already been trading up with Pioneer in recent years. Where, in your opinion, should prices move in the future?
PK: Our core price is currently €69.95 and €79.95 MSRP. One of our top sellers in this segment is MegaFlex. We're always launching new lines such as Handcrafted and Red Edition. With their especially high-quality craftsmanship and features, these are at the top end of our collection with pricing generally at €89.95. We will continue to strengthen and expand these segments.