Instantly recognisable by its green crocodile logo, Lacoste is a French company founded in 1933 by tennis player René Lacoste and André Gillier that sells clothing, footwear, leather goods, underwear, perfumes, eyewear, watches and home linen. Here, RLI sits down with Rajesh Jain, Managing Director and CEO of Lacoste India to find out how the brand has developed and grown in recent years.
The iconic Lacoste brand has been built on a love for the game, a passion for innovation and a certain French elegance. Since 1933, the story of Lacoste has mirrored that of its founder, René Lacoste, the French tennis legend who revolutionised the everyday wardrobe.
After 86 years of innovation, the brand now has 1,200 points of sale and sells to 120 countries, with over 10,000 employees making this happen. The brand achieved a turnover of over €2bn euros in 2017 and two Lacoste products are sold every second. The company has been operating in India since 1993 and has now expanded its footprint to 52 points of sale which include the digital flagship and three online market places through licensee Sports and Leisure Apparel Limited.
‘We believe in providing a superlative experience for our customers and following a ‘Selective Distribution Network’ policy for the retail expansion, we have successfully reached out to almost every metro and major city of the country through brick-and-mortar stores and in other parts of the country through our premium online presence,’ explains Rajesh Jain, Managing Director and CEO of Lacoste India. During the last financial year, Lacoste India has achieved high double-digit growth against the previous year and, with the combination of loyal customers and new additions, Lacoste in India has continued an impressive growth both in the online world as well as offline.
‘Over the last quarter of a century, Lacoste in India has evolved from a polo centric brand to a complete lifestyle brand whose perception has further been strengthened as a premium and unique brand for all ages and genders,’ says Jain.
The brand has recently launched two new boutiques in the country, one at VR Mall Chennai and the second at Viviana Mall in Thane, Mumbai. Apart from brick-and-mortar boutiques, they have also recently launched Lacoste products on the premium e-commerce website, luxury.tatacliq.com. Moving forward, plans are in place to open 3-4 new points of sale in the coming months, and the idea for these stores, as always, is to place them in locations that provide a luxurious environment to the customer and ensure maximum mileage from the marketing mix.
To maintain its market position over so many years, Lacoste continues to develop new products, take various initiatives and remains true to its brand DNA. ‘To keep the people engaged, it is extremely important to keep innovation at the forefront and keep bringing newness to your offerings depending upon the changing needs of the customers’ explains Jain.
Lacoste believes in innovation from the word go and this begins with its products, for which they begin working on launches more than a year in advance, putting in a lot of extensive research and efforts to develop new collections. New products are launched every one to two months and as Lacoste believes in trying out new things, they keep on collaborating with designers on a global level to ensure the customer always has the best quality and variety.
The company has seen traction in terms of increased customer engagement and sales through its social media initiatives, particularly since the launch of the website in 2016. Keeping in sync with the current preference of its customers, Lacoste India prioritises digital spend as it helps to enhance brand visibility on their online space and also to drive traffic to their digital flagship store. Speaking about what keeps people buying the brand’s products, Jain replies saying: ‘Taking customer delight as our top priority, we take our product quality, customer service and visual merchandising very seriously. A very important part of our overall scheme of things is to ensure consistency, so that whether a customer shops in India or Paris or China or the US, he would get exactly the same environment and the same merchandise.’
Lacoste’s mission is to be a unique, casual luxury brand. This requires a high level of quality and professionalism within areas such as creation, style, manufacturing and retail. The products and employees of Lacoste allow clients to live a unique experience regardless of the distribution network, physical or digital, anywhere in the world. While customer satisfaction remains the top priority, the brand is working towards more premiumisation and it is evident in their selection and the look and feel of its stores.
‘The biggest challenges that most international premium brands in India are currently facing are the non-availability of premium retail developments at the right cost and terms, discounting by online players and counterfeiting as well as the unauthorised sales of products,” says Jain. “However, we remain as committed as ever to delivering a high level of quality and professionalism to our customers.’