A testament to the growing demand for French-made luxury packaging solutions, Groupe Gainerie 91 inaugurated its new production site and headquarters in Lieusaint, outside Paris this month. Arnaud Haefelin, CEO of the packaging and merchandising specialist for the jewelry, watchmaking, wine & spirits and fragrance & cosmetics sectors, explains his strategy for regionalization.
You’ve just inaugurated your new French headquarters in Lieusaint. What does this add to Gainerie 91’s global footprint?
We operate production facilities in three regions in addition to France: Mauritius and China (with a staff of 200 for each site), and a factory in Portugal with 140 employees. At our new site in Lieusaint we aim to have a staff of 90, including 30 new recruits.
How does the new facility differ from your previous site?
For starters, it is twice the size! When we designed the floorplan, we placed the workshop at the center of the building. This is symbolic, as it conveys that the artisan is at the heart of our offer, but it also makes sense from an operational perspective as it allows for easier collaboration between the different departments. Equipment wise, at Lieusaint we have two spraying rooms, a lacquering room, polishing room and drying room. We’re also replacing our CNC machine.
In line with our CSR objectives, the factory was conceived to be vastly more energy and water-efficient than our previous location: some 50% of the roof is covered in solar panels, which for the moment cover between 30 and 40% of our energy needs with a goal of 50% in the short term. We’ll be energy-autonomous nearly five months per year, which is a big boost given the current escalating energy costs.
We’ve also installed a 10,000-liter water tank that will store rain and wastewater for reuse.
This factory’s increased capacity confirms that luxury brands are looking to produce more in France.
Absolutely, and the numbers bear this out: in 2001 when I took over the company, 100% of production was made in France, but by 2011 this had fallen to just 10%. Today we’ve climbed back up to 40%, at the expense of both Mauritius and China. Our site in Portugal has been operational since 2018, but it really took off two years ago after we won a major market for cases for a premium brand that shifted production away from Asia.
In terms of value sales, France is way ahead of other regions. This is not something we set out to do; we are suppliers to the luxury industry and our clients choose where they want to manufacture. Our goal is to map our locations to be as close as possible to our clients’ retail distribution. If we look at our global presence, North America is the only missing piece of the puzzle. There should be some news on that front soon.
Isn’t the trend for European-made packaging largely due to pressing supply chain issues?
It goes even further than that: this movement towards regionalization is a result of carbon output and the CSR reports that brands are now obliged to do. As a result, they are looking to manufacture as close as possible to where their products are sold. The appeal of low labor costs, in China at least, are not what they once were. We cover the Asian market with our production in China and while we may not want more Made in China, there is the local market to take into account as we won’t be producing in Europe for the China market.
What can you tell us about your in-house training program, Campus Gainerie?
We’ve found that the most effective way to obtain skilled workers in our areas of expertise—covering, forming, folding of leather, cardboard, and paper—is to train our new hires ourselves, and when we recruit, we don’t require experience. Campus Gainerie is our 18-month training program at Lieusaint, which includes a dedicated space with four workstations. The employees divide their time between training sessions and applying what they’ve learned in the atelier alongside experienced artisans.
How are you promoting French craftspeople at the new site?
Given that Made in France has a prevalent role at Lieusaint, we wanted to highlight craftspeople from different sectors in France. French woodworker Stéphane Leprizé, for example, is crafting a giant suspended wooden “ribbon”, that recalls a wood shaving that will be hung in our lobby, Roger Pradier created the building’s exterior lighting and Meljac supplied the metal light switches. In terms of our product offer, textile goldsmith Marie Berthouloux from Studio Ekceli worked with us for a limited-edition collection (pictured below).
You are also partnering with startups to source new materials?
When we calculated our carbon footprint, we learned that synthetic materials and transport were the two top contributors. The transport facet is being counterbalanced by our move towards more regional production, and to address the issue of synthetics, we are scouting more virtuous alternatives. Our in-house materials library is enriched every month and we’re collaborating with innovative start-ups, such as silk producer Sericyne and marine leather supplier Ictyos to name a few.
Our move into more eco-friendly materials is a response to client demands. We have already begun to implement a no-plastic policy, and not just virgin plastic, but aiming to ban plastic altogether.