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The Bravery Of The “Steel Rose” – CEO Mai Son

“Over the next 5 years, we expect tier 2 and tier 3 cities to make up at least 30% of our growth, and our overall sales are forecast to reach $400 million by 2027 “– CEO Mai Son

1. How has Maison Retail Management International overcome massive challenges during the Covid – 19 pandemic?

Businesses across the board have been significantly impacted by Covid-19, and Maison RMI is no exception. It was, in my opinion, the most difficult period that any firm had to go through.

Since we are in the retail industry, the entire shutdown of our company for several months that was required in order to conform to laws and ensure community safety was very challenging.

Fortunately, we had a team that was committed to reducing expenses and keeping only the essentials. It also sped up several initiatives we had such as the launch and growth of our online e-commerce platforms.

Currently, Maison is moving in the right direction after enduring the challenging COVID phase. Additionally, our business is doing exceptionally well. Today our company is generating over $110,000,000 USD of revenue with 80% of our stores being located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. 

Over the next 5 years, we expect tier 2 and tier 3 cities to make up at least 30% of our growth, and our overall sales are forecast to reach $400 million by 2027 – which will be driven by expansion of our existing portfolio of popular brands, the introduction of new brands to the market, the expansion into new cities, and the excellent growth of our e-commerce and online platforms.

2. What are the criteria Maison Retail Management International considers when deciding to bring a brand into the Vietnamese market?

At Maison RMI our main focus is on fully understanding our customers. Therefore, the first criteria when deciding to bring a brand to the Vietnam market is whether or not it would meet consumer needs. 

We do not rely on feelings, but on metrics of purchasing power, trends and desired looks in very specific regions and cities. Then we analyze these metrics to see what kind of percentage we can successfully win in that market. 

The most important aspect is the commerciality of the brand for the Vietnam market. If it’s not suitable to our customer needs, no amount of marketing or operational capabilities will make up for it.

We also closely consider the choice of partners including what terms they offer, how well they can work with us and if they have a vested interest in growing the Vietnam market and expanding their presence.

I would say that for every brand we bring into Vietnam, there are 10-15 we closely consider and ultimately pass on due to any number of factors as part of our internal assessment criteria.

3. How do you see the market changing after more than two decades in the Vietnamese fashion retail industry?

Since the early 2000s, Vietnamese people have become more affluent with their purchasing power steadily increasing; this occurred relatively evenly across all provinces and cities. It’s now one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a very uniquely young demographic. Nearly 65% of the country’s population of 98,000,000 is said to be under the age of 35 years old. There’s never been a better time to be a fashion retailer in Vietnam, with consumption being driven by the rapidly emerging middle and upper-middle class.

The Vietnam fashion market is expected to reach +/- US8.6b by 2025, growing at a CARG of 8.6%, far outpacing our regional peers. I can proudly say that our company is perfectly positioned to capitalize on this growth and the opportunity it presents. If you look at our portfolio, nearly 85% of our brands are in the mass- aspirational or sportswear segment, with an additional 15% in the mid to high-end segment which matches where the majority of economic growth and consumer demand that will come from in the coming years.

4. What advantages does Maison Retail Management International now have over its competitors?

I believe our core business principles are the key to our success, which are: FOCUS – QUALITY – INTEGRITY – FUN – DIVERSITY. These are the fundamental principles which I constantly strive to uphold in the fashion industry.

Focus: I set my goal and work towards it in all my short and long term strategies.  I’m not letting any distractions get in the way which don’t forward our objective to be a leading fashion retailer in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

Quality: I strongly believe Maison RMI has the highest standards of quality when it comes to the fashion industry. For every brand we decide to bring into the market, my team probably considers and rejects 20. We also spend a tremendous amount of time considering where to open our stores and reject a lot of locations having other high quality brands if they don’t meet our internal criteria.

Integrity: Maison encourages open and direct communication where everyone’s opinion is listened to in an open-minded manner. Open and direct communication sometimes means having uncomfortable conversations, but that’s essential to reaching the truth and achieving the best outcome which is in everyone’s interests.

Fun & Diversity: Work is going to make up a large part of your life, so why not have fun while you’re doing it! At Maison we respect diversity and people’s ideas. We work hard to ensure that there are always opportunities for all of our team in both their career and self- development. We believe that our human resources are a core asset to strengthen our business and sustain our growth.

5. Which of the brands distributed by Maison Retail Management International most impressed you during the process of convincing them to grant you distribution rights in Vietnam?

Every brand has its own story and strategy because every brand has its own personality, unique set of qualities, business requirements, commercial terms and its target customers. 

I would say brands we are most excited about include our current portfolio of Charles & Keith, Pedro, MLB, Havaianas, Puma and Sketchers. Each of these brands has the potential to grow to between 50 and 100 stores across Vietnam.

6. Maison Retail Management International currently dedicates 15% of its brands to the middle-class segment. Do you plan to increase this number in the near future?

Maison RMI is currently targeting the mass market with international high-quality products at reasonable prices. We look forward to expanding opportunities for more Vietnamese people to access and experience high quality international brands without fear of being unable to afford quality fashion. We still consider distributing brands that target the middle and upper classes, but this is not likely to happen in the near future.

7. What does fashion mean to you? How did you go about orienting your personal fashion style?

I love fashion, so I decided to start a fashion business. Fashion is not simply a hobby, it is my career. To live a happier and more joyful life, I believe that everyone needs to dress well. About my fashion style, it depends on the season. I’ll develop my own style based on each fashion trend. In addition, I choose fashion brands that suit both my daily life and work. Currently, I am pursuing a youthful, liberal, chic, stylish and modern look. 

8. What fashion advice do you have for modern women?

In my opinion, fashion is a powerful tool that helps women express themselves, and at the same time helps present their personality. Therefore, modern women should know how to take advantage of fashion to express their own identity. Regardless of age or body shape, depending on specific events or circumstances, women can choose for themselves a suitable style. The most important thing is to experiment with fashion; you’ll find a lot of intriguing looks that you never believed you could wear!

9. What are your personal and Maison Retail Management International‘s goals in the next 5 years?

As shared above, with foresight and identifying fashion as an industry for long-term development, within the next five years, Maison will reach three times the current scale with more than 400 stores nationwide with several new brands. Maison aspires to become the leading fashion retailer in Vietnam.

The interview with CEO Mai Son was conducted by Portfolio Vietnam – Issue 11, released in print edition October 2022.

-Maison Corporation Communication Team-

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