MBO@Halder

Healthcare and fashion

2015-3-1

Amoena is the worldwide leader in prosthetics and functional undergarments for women after breast surgery. With Halder as the majority shareholder, the company is looking to grow internationally and offer a broader range of sports and leisure.

At first glance, breast cancer seems like a straightforward healthcare issue: In Europe and the United States, between 130 and 225 out of 100,000 women are diagnosed. With an average age between the early 50s and late 60s, up to 40% of them undergo mastectomy. Most of them wear a prosthesis after surgery and require long-term care.

Patients usually receive a compression bra for primary care after surgery which they wear for a few weeks. Following initial recovery, the physician in charge writes a prescription which e.g. a patient in Germany will take to a medical supply store. There, a specially trained employee will help to select a customised prosthesis with matching bras – as well as swimwear, if there is a need. Costs are covered according to patients’ health insurance policies.

40 years of innovation

Founded in 1975, Amoena is the pioneer in this field. In the 1970s, breast prostheses generally were rather simple plastic pouches filled with liquids or gels. Amoena has used silicone from the very beginning, since this material is particularly well-suited for breast prostheses. Silicone provides natural motion and feel to the wearer, adapts well to body temperature and does not irritate scar tissue or skin.

Four decades of continuous innovation have resulted in a product range covering a multitude of medical and customer requirements. Amoena's full and partial prostheses are available in more than 1,000 forms and in a wide range of colours. They can be worn in a special bra holding them securely in a pocket, or directly on the skin. Depending on the patient’s needs, they consist of one or more layers with different silicone mixtures and structures. The company has secured quality and product characteristics through a large number of patents and is constantly driving innovation, for instance together with Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences. Products are manufactured exclusively at the company's facilities in Raubling – using equipment which represents the expertise from four decades of materials research and advances in process technology.

Amoena also has more than 20 years' experience in the textile sector: it has been producing specialty bras since 1992 – before the development of self-adhesive silicone forms, which the company was the first to bring to market, this was the only way to wear prosthetic breasts. The product range was expanded to include special swimwear – one of the few applications outside the core healthcare field – in 1996. For post-surgery treatment, the company offers compression bras and light textile-fibre breast forms which are worn after the initial recovery. Amoena manufactures some of its textile products in-house: in Heredia (Costa Rica), a location providing a good framework for the production of high-quality undergarments. It also serves as a gateway to North American markets.

The product range and a sales organisation addressing more than 7,500 partners in over 70 countries make the company the leading international supplier. Another reason for its strong market position is a high level of brand loyalty: customers often are introduced to Amoena products while they are hospitalized and normally stay with "their" brand once they have selected a silicone prosthesis.

A different look

For some years now, women are demanding more than medical care: Having survived breast cancer diagnosis, therapy and surgery, they want to carry on with their life. This includes a desire for undergarment which fits a changed body, but does not look "medical". This means fashion as well as attractive fabrics and materials. Given the increasing athletic and leisure activity of the affected age groups, demand has extended far beyond existing swimwear.

Ronny Lemmens, Amoena’s managing director since 2011, is convinced the company's core competence will open doors to growth with stylish underwear, sports and leisure apparel: five million women who have already purchased Amoena products provide a solid foundation on which to take the first steps in this direction. Lemmens has worked in the outerwear sector since the early 1980s, including leadership positions with brand manufacturer Mexx and fashion retailer Secon Group. He is familiar with the issues faced by the industry; from supply chain management to the introduction of new fashion brands, and has already revamped the company’s sales organisation.

How do you keep pace with changing customer desires? By finding new approaches: encouraged by customer surveys, Amoena has asked top designers to develop new models since 2012. These are presented to selected sales partners and customers as seasonal collections and hit stores a few months later. The process, common in the fashion sector, immediately reveals the market response to changing collections. Orders and the resulting materials and capacity requirements become clearly identifiable – thus making the performance of new business lines more transparent and manageable.

Feedback on new undergarment and beach fashion collections confirm the strategy’s efficacy: order volume exceeded expectations from the very beginning and trading partners strongly support the expansion of the product range and the associated changes in the sales organisation. In this way, Amoena is planning to expand its offerings in existing core markets – Europe and the United States. A broader product range and new sales concepts will also help establish a foothold in additional markets, such as Asia.