Imports with specific focuses, special designs, production in Europe, brand representation and finally a sustainable corporate strategy: Boomerang is multifaceted. The latest coup is the Citizen Green label, which the company is using to position itself on the French market as a pioneer for “green products”.
Anyone, who enters the showroom measuring 400 m² at the headquarters of Boomerang in Lognes, on the outskirts of Paris, first has to find his orientation: At the first glance, the product range exhibited there seems to be huge. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to class Boomerang as a generalist – because the company is quite simply too specialised in many respects. “Compared to the big importers on the market, we are rather small and what’s more family-run,” explained CEO Rodolphe Jaquet. “In order to survive on today’s market, we have to stand out from the rest, otherwise we would be interchangeable.“
Starting off with pins
Jaquet started off like many of his competitors: He stumbled into the promotional products business by chance. “While taking my Economics degree, I did an internship in a surfing shop in Corsica,” recalls Jaquet. “That is where I gathered my first experiences selling pins that were totally in fashion at the time. I decided to carry on in this sector and got to know a manufacturer in Taipei and became familiar with the promotional products industry and all its facets.“
In 1987, he founded the company Boomerang together with his wife Cecile, which they have been running jointly ever since: “My wife leads the marketing division – including the catalogue production – and the Personnel Department, whilst I am responsible for sales, purchasing and product development,” explained Jaquet. “Since the company was founded, we have maintained our own office in Hong Kong – a move that has paid off in many ways and which matches our company’s name perfectly. After all, the boomerang symbolically stands for the saying ‘What goes around, comes around‘.“
The young company advanced into becoming one of the biggest suppliers of pins on the French promotional products market until pins went out of fashion. “As a result we have expanded our line-up in the various additional product segments,” reported Jaquet. “These include bags, textiles, umbrellas, electronic items, writing instruments and watches, divided up into the different collections ‘Bewear’, ‘Betronics’ and ‘Bewatch’.“
A further expansion followed in 2004 in the brand representation sector: In the meantime, Boomerang has the exclusive rights to sell 50 well-known retail brands on the French B2B market. “The entire brand portfolio is illustrated in the catalogue ‘Comptoir des Marques’ that has a circulation of 5,000 copies and which is sent out to French promotional products distributors,” added Jaquet. “Furthermore, we hold licences for own product developments for the French brands Caddie, Vuarnet and Inès de la Fressange.“
Custom-made designs and logistics
Boomerang sees product development as being one of its core competences, not only in the brand products sector: “Thanks to our office in Hong Kong, it has always been easy to realise own designs and custom-made products,” Export Manager Sébastien Ouvrard stated. “We make around 50% of our turnover with custommade products. Where possible, we also try to lend our products a ‘special touch’ that distinguishes them from the masses.“
With the exception of the brand products, which are sent out directly by the respective manufacturers, the entire logistics is taken care of by the corporate division Belog, which was founded in 2004: A warehouse measuring 5,000 m² that offers space for 4,000 Euro pallets. “We receive approx. 200 containers and dispatch around 20,000 orders a year. We can process up to 200 orders a day,” reported Ouvrard.
An alignment with good prospects for the future one could safely say – and yet in 2007 the company made a radical decision: “We had reached the point, where we were faced with a decision: To either sell up or change the company’s alignment in the direction of sustainable, ethically correct products,” reported Jaquet. The decision to adopt a new corporate philosophy coincided with the introduction of the new brand, Citizen Green. “
Within a few years we changed 80% of our line-up and parted from 40% of our manufacturers in the Far East,” said Jaquet. “We searched for alternative sources of supply instead – for example we founded our own subsidiary in India in 2010, which supplies us with bags made of bio-cotton.“
We are also expanding our production in Europe. The subsidiary Rubastyl manufactures office materials such as writing pads or conference folders made of cardboard and PP directly at the Boomerang headquarters. Terry cloth goods, adhesive notes, cups and straw hats are further product lines that are purchased from European manufacturers.
The same applies for all manufacturers: They have to sign an internal Code of Conduct, which is based on the provisions of the International Labor Association (ILO). Moreover, Boomerang is a member of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and is ISO 14001-certified (environmental management).
With the exception of terry cloth and microfiber products that are imprinted in high-resolution photo quality in-house using the digital sublimation technique, Boomerang falls back on the services of contract printers from the region for its “Beprint” embellishing service. “Here too we have consciously chosen a different approach to the ‘Biggies’ of the industry, who have outsourced their printing and logistics to Eastern Europe,” noted Jaquet. “We secure local jobs while at the same time keeping the processing and thus also the delivery times as well as the environmental pollution down to a minimum thanks to the short routes.“
In order to make the CSR and sustainability efforts that the company has been undertaking since 2007 more transparent, Boomerang developed the Etikeko® programme: “Each of our products is awarded a grade, which comprises of a number between 1 and 3 as well as a letter from A to E,” explained Ouvrard. “The number stands for the production conditions, the letter from A to E denotes the ecological sustainability of the product. Hence, the best evaluation is A1. The corresponding criteria for the evaluation is illustrated clearly in all Citizen Green catalogues.“ Further explanations are often additionally attached to the products themselves, such as small pouches containing the respective raw material, for example recycled PET. However, Ouvrard stressed: “Sustainable aspects don’t always interest the users and purchasers, which is why for us as well as the sustainability discussion, it is also important to create lifestyle products that provide added value in terms of quality and design.“
For the first time Boomerang recently published a catalogue in English and in German for Citizen Green for export purposes – because with the help of the new brand the export share is to be expanded, as Ouvrard announced: “In addition to the international catalogue the initial steps also include own offices in Germany, the Netherlands and Finland. With the help of Citizen Green our aim is to significantly increase our export share, which currently lies at 8%.“ It is almost inevitable that the innovative brand will also find many fans outside of France.
An interview with two French service providers can be found here: “Good opportunities for foreign suppliers”