EBRD and EU support Serbian fashion industry

By Bojana Gajic

How Tiffany Production won over customers in entire region

How Tiffany Production won over customers in entire region

The textile industry was one of the strongest industries in the former Yugoslavia. With the collapse of the federation and loss of eastern markets, it almost died out. Still, some fashion houses have managed to survive, and even thrive, despite enduring many economic crises and a lot of turbulence during the 1990s, and have continued to appeal to consumers despite the fierce high-street competition they face today.

Serbian fashion house Tiffany is one of them. The family company was founded in 1982, and today it employs 130 people.

“The quality of our products – that is our unique selling point”, explains Boro Radoičić, the founder of the company. “Our business model is to put the customer in the centre. We listen to customers to give them what they want.” 

Made in Serbia

From design to sewing, Tiffany is made entirely in Serbia. But its clothes are loved by customers across the Western Balkans – a true success story for a region that is trying to foster economic cooperation. Currently the company sells products in Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro through its own shops and franchising system.

With its sleek design and quality materials, Tiffany’s target demographic is 30 to 55-year-old businesswomen and businessmen. The house has a young team of designers and a creative director who all learn about new trends by travelling to fashion fairs across Europe.

“We are not lagging behind the rest of the world anymore. We have introduced a system similar to those found in European fashion houses: we present our collections and ideas to our buyers six months in advance,”explains Tamara Karapandžić, Marketing Manager.

Not like in the early days

Mr Radoičić remembers the early days of starting his job as a complete newbie in the fashion world, with production happening in his own house and with only three employees. But he persevered in working and learning, and the company grew.

Fast forward to 2009, the company was facing different challenges.

“We had tough times in our company. When the world economic crisis broke out, its effects trickled down to the Serbian economy, and we experienced some financial difficulties. By 2015 we had stabilised our finances. Now, we monitor our financial results on a monthly basis and we don’t have the same problems any more”.

To improve the company’s financial planning and monitoring system, Tiffany embarked on the EBRD’s advisory programme. Supported by the European Union, the programme is designed to help businesses gain know-how and improve their performance and competitiveness. 

“We used to plan mainly based on my father’s previous experience and feelings rather than data,” explains Vladimir Radoičić, Mr Radoičić’s son, who, together with his brothers and sister, will continue the family business.

“We came to a point where we felt that we were doing things “in a fog”, and we realised we needed exact data in order to understand which projects are successful, which are less successful, how healthy the company currently is, what brings profit and what wastes energy and so on,”, adds Vladimir.

“In cooperation with consultants, especially on financials, we analysed expenses, discovered which shops are profitable and obtained accurate data. Now, we make informed analyses and projections well in advance before we launch a new project”, adds Mr Radoičić, satisfied with the results of working with Serbian firms Omega and Adizes on the EBRD project.

EU support for Serbian firms   

The EBRD programme in Serbia has already reached over 900 businesses and entrepreneurs since 2001. The European Union has supported the programme with over €14 million.

“We are supporting more and more fashion companies in Serbia and we are glad to see that this sector is expanding”, said Bojana Vukosavljević, EBRD Principal Manager for Advice for Small Businesses in Serbia.

"The current programme cycle will enable at least 130 Serbian companies to improve their skills and become more innovative, attract financing, gain relevant expertise and become business leaders, increasing their competitiveness and productivity. Together with other EU-funded support for the business environment, bank guarantees for access to finance and grants to innovators, we have addressed the most important needs of the Serbian economy," explains Steffen Hudolin, Head of Operations in the EU Delegation to Serbia.