Starting as a quintessential Polo-wear brand for men and expanding its portfolio over the years, Lacoste India has shifted its focus on women’s collection this year. This came as a part of the brand’s global repositioning strategy. With Portuguese fashion designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista as the new international creative director of the brand, the women’s category for Lacoste will be its global calling card.
Baptista’s first solo collection, Spring Summer 2012, has hit Indian boutiques. The changes in design and shift in the strategy has turned the sporty women’s apparel more chic and feminine. “Turning our focus on women’s collection we have introduced new fits and styles in our Polo offering for women,” says Rajesh Jain, director and CEO, Lacoste India, the Indian unit of the high-end French apparel company. Lacoste India is a strategic alliance between Lacoste and the Delhi-based Turner Morrison group.
From an Indian perspective, women make up 40 to 50 per cent of the walk-ins at any Lacoste store; yet the contribution of women categories to the brand’s overall sales in India is around 10 per cent. The reason being, sports inspired offerings for women have limited offtake, unlike those for men who wear sportswear on many occasions. Nonetheless women equally value quality and style. Jain says, “Women behave differently as consumers and it is important for them that their styling is appreciated as their own rather than the logo’s visibility on garments. On the other hand, the brand’s visibility is important for accessories like handbags, sunglasses etc. With this insight, Felipe changed the logo positioning in some styles and even detached the logo from a few styles.”
Lacoste has been in India since 1993 and in the ensuing years, the brand has evolved from a men’s Polo centric brand to a complete lifestyle brand. Of course, Lacoste now has a lot more competition to deal with — in the form of sports and fashion wear labels — than when it entered India. Is being low profile such a good idea even now? Jain says, “Being an elegant and subtle brand since its inception, we have been understated in our business communication as well. However, the brand has undergone changes in the Indian market context. Over the last five years we have moved to offer larger format stores in key metros and have expanded our key boutiques in Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad and Pune.”
Lacoste follows a selective distribution policy, essential to maintain the exclusive positioning of the brand. The distribution strategy is led by a flagship or premium store(s) in each of the key cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Pune. Delhi and Mumbai being the most important markets, the brand has deeper penetration here and intends to expand further.
Presently Lacoste has more than 35 points-of-sales — flagships, boutiques, franchisee and multi-brand outlets. Jain shares, in the coming quarter Lacoste aims at increasing the footprint in the two key markets of Mumbai and Delhi with large and medium format stores. The brand is looking at a growth of around 45 per cent year-on-year basis over the next three years.