A family business that resists sports giants with old campers

For 80 years, the Au Vieux Campeur chain store has been a facility for outdoor sports enthusiasts. “Nothing has changed from the beginning, so it’s a bit old-fashioned. It’s the name, the logo, and even the location of the store …”, Analyze Natalie Freck, a professor specializing in brand management at Le Mans University. This does not prevent this family-owned company from becoming enthusiastic about these outdoor sports. Sales have doubled since the 2000s and should reach around 160 million euros in 2022. In 2023, perhaps a new AuVieux Campeur store will open in Bordeaux.

The story of a bearded old man in a checkered jacket began in 1941.Returning from the war, scout and hiking fans Roger de Lortais decided to open. “A shop with everything he likes”, While paid leave is being developed. Together with his wife Sorange, they sew the canvas of the tent and sew the scout scarf themselves.Success came soon and the first store was at 38 rue des Écoles in 5e The district of Paris is too small. In 1956, the shop was put up for sale at 48 ruedes Écoles. The two merchants jumped at the opportunity to integrate all the departments there. After that, from 1973, it began to flock to the neighborhood.

Village of “old camper”

Today, the family-owned Latin Quarter has about 20 shops, each dedicated to areas such as mountaineering, scuba diving and running. “Initially, it wasn’t voluntary. We always wanted to stay in Paris, but couldn’t find a site large enough. Says Aymericde Rorthays, grandson of the founder who runs the company with his brother Ludwig... No more questions today. We call it our village and our customers love it. “ Guarantee your boss. Vision shared by Natalie Fleck: “There is a group behind it that gives customers the impression of being in a small, independent store, but consumers are not aware of it. »» However, some people get lost. “Where are the trail bags?», Ask a customer who has just entered the running store. “To do that, you have to go to 44 ruedes Écoles”, Answer Antoine, who has been a salesman for two months and is already accustomed to this repetitive question.

Many customers come to the store to receive advice. “We are all athletes, so we know what the injury is and can give the best advice.” The running store salesman, Arthur, confirms. “It’s not really a customer-seller relationship, but it’s a human discussion and it’s very easy to get to know each other.” He adds.

Hyper Specialized

How would you describe this success in the face of competition with giants like decathlon and Intersport? Au vieux campeur relies on hyperspecialization if Decathlon is much more generalist. “There are 80 references for mountaineering shoes, but I think there are six.” Shows the pattern. “Today we no longer consider them competitors, but not bad for them to get people to practice their activities, and when they are more skilled, they find the right equipment. Is to come to us. Guarantee Aymericde Rorthays. The same is true for Pauline Boulet, a freelance journalist who specializes in mountain sports. “I often hear that decathlon is good for amateur practice, but lacks expertise. »»

“AuVieux” is proud to offer durable and high quality products, even if they are more expensive than supermarkets. For example, it’s impossible to find the North Face down jacket that hit this winter for 99 euros. “This version does not have the quality to meet our standards, Guarantee the general manager. Since it lasts for 1 to 2 seasons at the longest, we have decided not to sell it because we do not meet the customer’s request. A genuine North Face down jacket costs around 249 euros. He specifies. A workshop in Normandy will also repair damaged products.

Importance of self-financing

The famous beard-bearded man still experienced difficult times, especially during the Covid crisis. “Sales were 30 million euros”, Aymericde Rorthays explains. They claim that they do not receive state support, except for partial unemployment. “We didn’t have the right standards to qualify it, and then we don’t ask for help in our culture.» » Then they used the money they had set aside to negotiate rent.

The company is strongly obsessed with its independence and does not want to bring outside shareholders into capital. “That’s too many constraints. The advantage of being a 100% owner is that if you have a low annual revenue, you can reduce your spending and have no lifestyle to envision. – Include: Shareholders receiving compensation. Rorthays’ two grandchildren were destined to take over the store. “The question never happened, it happened naturally”, Guarantee cadets.

Independent trade epidemic

However, this financial independence comes at a cost. Investing is more timid. In 2021, when Au vieux campeur decided to open a shop specializing in urban mobility, it was chosen not to sell bicycles but to focus on equipment for cyclists. “It’s also a realism. It costs a lot to secure a large inventory like other products, and it’s not economically feasible for a very long time.” Aymericde Rorthays explains.

So far, the recipe works.Especially because there is “I’m sick of supermarkets, Decode Natalie Freck, a professor of brand management. While this independent trader is completely back in fashion. ”


80 years of outdoor sports

1941.Creation of Auvieux campeur by Roger and Solangede Rorthays. The first catalog is gradually seasonal and decorated with a small beard-bearded man.

1950s.A new store in Paris. The catalog will grow to 100 pages.

1960-1970.Older campers are accompanied by a winter sports boom. He is one of the people who starts the principle of “If we find it cheap elsewhere, we will refund the difference.” Jacques-Yves de Rorthays took over his father Roger in the late 1970s.

1980s.On the logo, a bearded man is exchanging cigarettes for daisies. The first boutique in Lyon, a suburb of Paris.

1990s.Point Card He appeared.

2000-2010.Website jumps With 10,000 references.

2020s.The brand will open a space in Printemps Ottoman in 2021 (Paris), 46 stores in 11 cities in France: Paris, Lyon, Tonon Levan, Sallanches, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Albertville, Marseille, Grenoble, Chambéry, Gap.
Spring 2023. Scheduled to open in Bordeaux.