Watch this space: Lacoste thinks big in travel retail

“In travel retail we only have 50-80sq m of space to translate who we are as a brand, and I think we are clearer in what we do [as a result],” says Lacoste’s CEO of EMEA Markets & Global Travel Retail Jean-Louis Delamarre. “We have better doors, better locations, a clearer concept and are more consistent with what we do.”

The sportswear brand that aims to capture French elegance has a clear vision of its identity – and a clear notion of its strategy in travel retail too. The channel offers Lacoste the chance to show the best of the brand to many millions of consumers every year, and has also performed well in commercial terms.

Crucial to the company’s strategy has been the decision to focus on big door openings in key locations, according to Delamarre. “There is still room to grow in travel retail but I’m not desperate for more locations,” he says. “I’m looking at extending the doors that we have to be able to translate the full lifestyle aspect of the brand to include all categories. We will keep opening in top airports and downtown locations, but I’m now looking for space.”

“We are clearer as a brand today and the message we convey to the consumer about who we are is translated in our operations. Customers can understand the DNA of our brand at our new doors. We are a sports-inspired brand and we are French elegance. Our aim is to translate that so people want to wear the brand.”Lacoste’s growing footwear category in particular requires space (for both displays and store rooms) in order to be executed well, according to Delamarre. “The discussions we have now with airports are about even better locations and bigger sizes to recreate our store concept,” he notes.

Travellers are certainly taking to the brand, according to recent sales figures. Delamarre describes Lacoste’s performance as “excellent” over the past 12 months, and says momentum is being generated.

“Last year was the best ever from a number standpoint in the global business,” he notes. “The brand is appealing to consumers from all over the world and compared to peers in the industry it is one of the fastest-growing brands.

“In travel retail, we are seeing steady growth in EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] and Asia in particular.”

For Delamarre, success in travel retail is determined by the level of  consumer focus and the degree of transparency. “We should all [airports, retailers and brands] do our best to serve the consumer in a good way,” he notes. “There are many ways to do this: airports have to manage the overall flow, retailers have to make sure service is given in-store, and brands have to provide the right concept and the story.”

“The discussions we have now with airports are about even better locations and bigger store sizes.”

On transparency, he comments: “I think the industry is getting better but there are still a lot of things we can do about data sharing.”

Joining Le Club

One of Lacoste’s main targets in 2018 has been the roll-out of its tennis court-inspired Le Club retail concept, with openings having either taken place or been scheduled at locations in Italy, Dubai, Japan and Portugal, among others.

Lacoste’s new 150sq m outlet at the King Power Srivaree Duty Free Downtown Complex in Bangkok, which opened on 26 July, is one of the first travel retail stores in Asia Pacific to house the concept.

“It is about fine tuning the concept to travel retail,” says Delamarre. “There’s a strong emphasis on the qualities of the brand and we need to adjust capacity to travel retail.”

Delamarre says the main objective of Le Club is to showcase the brand’s heritage. “The concept of Le Club has been built from the original tennis club where [brand founder] Rene Lacoste played,” he explains. “Colours and materials link to tennis. We want customers to feel that when they open the door to the store, even if we remove the logo, that it is Lacoste.”

“We are a sports-inspired brand and we are French elegance. Our aim is to translate that so people want to wear the brand.”

Initial results have been promising. “The first domestic door was in [shopping centre] Westfield in London and this location is up +20% [in sales], so we are confident that customers understand the concept and can navigate the store more easily. The purpose of Le Club is to stick to the DNA of the brand, translate it to the consumer and so far it looks as though it is doing that job.”

Travel retail remains a key channel for Lacoste in conveying its strategic messages and exposing new customers to the brand. There are a number of projects in the pipeline to reflect this importance.

“We have an ambitious plan for South Korea and are looking at opening new doors in Australia,” says Delamarre. “In Europe, we are focusing on northern countries such as Denmark and Germany, and we also have an ambitious project at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport involving store extensions.”

Lacoste’s hope is to be given more room in travel retail. Given that aspiration, underpinned by an ambitious strategic vision, it is definitely a case of ‘watch this space’ for one of the channel’s most renowned brands.

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