With over 170 travel retail doors worldwide, Lacoste is no rookie player in the industry. Leveraging  travel retail to strengthen or expand in new areas, Lacoste is alert and ready to develop new channels, such as e-commerce and cruiselines, and find new ways of connecting with consumers throughout their journey.

Jean Louis Delamarre: “he most important trend for our business continues to be the massive increase of Chinese consumers travelling abroad”

An all-rounder, Lacoste plays across several categories in travel retail – from fragrances, footwear and sunglasses and leathergoods, to watches and clothing – most famously polo shirts.

Kapila Ireland met with Lacoste Global Travel Retail CEO Jean-Louis Delamarre at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes last week to talk about the iconic sportswear brand’s designs on travel retail championship.

The Moodie Davitt Report: Tell us about Lacoste’s approach to travel retail.

Jean-Louis Delamarre: Just taking a look back at 2017 so far, it’s already been another very successful year for Lacoste in travel retail. Our strategy in travel retail has a dual objective: One is branding and the other is business; we try to combine the two.

For Lacoste, it’s very important to leverage travel retail as a medium because of the exposure it affords the brand. Via this channel, we are able to come into contact with many millions of consumers every year. With this in mind, our strategy is to focus on big door openings in key locations so that we can express the brand and the different categories we play in to their best advantage. By focusing on the top airports, we are able to show the very best of what the brand can bring to duty free. And the results are evident, this channel is growing for us, and qualitatively as we expand the brand to key locations around the world.

With 170 travel retail locations already in travel retail, where are the next areas of focus?

In this business, we are opening new doors every week, but we have some key markets which are important for us to make a difference in. Just this week [first week of October], we have opened in a key location for us in downtown Bangkok with King Power Thailand, which is our biggest partner in travel retail globally. For us to have a sizeable and beautiful placement in their new downtown store has been very important for the business and represents significant exposure of the brand.

In the first week of October, Lacoste opened a boutique within King Power Thailand’s recently refurbished Bangkok downtown store

Beyond that we have projects all around the world and within the last month we have already opened several new doors in Asia. Our presence in Europe is constantly growing; we have opened at London Heathrow in the UK, which is trading very well and we are very happy with its progress. We also have some exciting projects coming in Paris.

What else do you have in the pipeline?

Our very latest concept will be coming to travel retail before the end of this year. Internally we are calling it ‘Le Club’ because it is reminiscent of the tennis clubs the brand’s founder René Lacoste played and changed in.

Within this concept, travellers will find a very iconic presence of the brand – starting from the materials and going back to the very roots of the game of tennis. For example, you will see the leather that was used to bind racquets and the light wood of the changing rooms of some of the most iconic clubs, such as the famed Chantaco family heritage Golf club in St. Jean-de-Luz.

Lacoste’s new ‘Le Club’ concept depicts the changing rooms of some of the world’s most iconic tennis clubs

The concept places a big emphasis on polo shirts, which are our statement product. When you think of Lacoste, the first things that come to mind are the Crocodile emblem and polo shirts. Leveraging this brand identity, we really want to make a big push on polo shirts and make a big visual impact on this category in each and every one of our stores.

We are planning to introduce this concept to new travel retail doors in Portugal and in Belgrade. These will be the first iterations, after which the concept will be rolled out all over the world in the channel.

How does the travel retail division adjust and adapt to a constantly changing business environment?

The Lacoste travel retail division is one global business unit. We track our performance globally, and we have been lucky to record growth year-after year. Yet it is a global business in that very essence and there are some parts of the world that have felt the impact of geopolitical events – Brexit in the UK/Europe and also the slowdown of Chinese travellers to Korea, for example, and this has in turn had an impact on our business. But with the Chinese traveller, you can always catch up with them in some part of the world!

And that is fortunate, because the most important trend for our business continues to be the massive increase of Chinese consumers travelling abroad. This is not only something we have to take into consideration in Asia, such as Korea, but everywhere. Therefore, we must adjust our offer and ensure we can receive Chinese guests all over the world and in the right manner.

Then, there has been development of some interesting channels in this industry; the cruise business is really starting to take off and we can see, in some parts of the world, the rise of e-commerce business in travel retail, particularly in Korea.

“We really want to make a big push on polo shirts and make a big visual impact on this category in each and every one of our stores,” declares Lacoste Global Travel Retail CEO Jean-Louis Delamarre

Globally, the travel retail business is still very alive and growing for us, but we have to adjust our proposition along with the consumer and wherever they shop. Our biggest focus is Asia as this is where we continue to hold the biggest chunk of our business and it is where we feel we will grow the most in the future – not just because of the Chinese traveller, but also the growing legions of Asian travelling consumers. Yes, it is true air traffic is growing, but it is more so in Asia, and exponentially.

Our aim is to adjust the assortment first to the environment, so this includes the passenger profile and the size of the point-of-sale (POS). But we also leverage the ‘key moment’. For example, during the Chinese New Year we ensure that a proper assortment for Chinese travellers is available almost globally in our travel retail operations at this moment in time.  This is something that we look transversely in this channel. We try to adjust to the type of customer, by location and type of store – with a growing focus on the Chinese consumer.

Does e-commerce fit into your strategy, and how?

Definitely. I think South Korea is a test market for all of us. The Korean operators are well advanced because the likes of Lotte Duty Free, Hyundai and Shinsegae have already put digital platforms in place with their local players a long time ago. And it is already starting to take up a big chunk of the business.

Digital platforms are starting to take up a “big chunk” of the duty free business for Lacoste, particularly in South Korea

These are customers that shop before their trip and collect their goods at the airport. Basically, the digital platform gives them more time to shop as they select their product in advance and its very convenient because they can collect quickly and easily. How do we work with them as a brand? We partner with such operators because it’s also about brand experience. Consumers do not shop in the travel retail environment just because of the price. They want and expect a brand experience. The key lies translating the physical offline brand experience into an online experience. At Lacoste, we leverage what we do in our domestic digital flagship and we partner with the retailer to ensure the experience is up to our standards. This is what we have done in Korea with our retail partners.

How is Lacoste leveraging the brand’s heritage to engage with the consumer?

In 2018, Lacoste celebrates another milestone in its 85th anniversary. We are getting ready to celebrate and planning events at which we can celebrate with our customers and our partners.

Our partnership with Novak Djokovic is something that we can leverage all year around the world. We have also partnered with the French Olympic Committee – the Winter Olympics are coming up in PyeongChang, South Korea at the end of 2018 so we have many events to accelerate our activities for the brand around sportswear, around its heritage and its elegance with some new global ambassadors. We are looking forward to translating many of these events into store activations in travel retail.

“FAIR PLAY, TENACITY AND ELEGANCE”

In May this year, Lacoste unveiled tennis star Novak Djokovic as its latest style ambassador.

Lacoste said that Djokovic’s relaxed elegance and inventiveness are a perfect match for the French brand’s DNA and its sports-inspired creations.

Lacoste has developed a clothing line for Djokovic to be worn during the Grand Slam tournaments. He debuted the new range during the 2017 French Open.

The Novak Djokovic collection, available in Lacoste boutiques, comprises performance products that are said to fuse functionality with style. According to the brand, each item is engineered from materials picked for their quality and performance. Ergonomic stitching prevents chaffing while the cuts are claimed to bring about ease of movement.

Novak Djokovic’s signature is printed on the left sleeve of the polo shirt which has graphics inspired by the lines of a tennis court. Touches of blue, white and red feature on the plain background.

Lacoste said both René Lacoste and Novak Djokovic share the same values of fair play, tenacity and elegance.

[Click on the icon to view Timeless, Lacoste’s latest film,directed by Seb Edwards, who was responsible for The Big Leap, the first brand video in Lacoste’s communication history. Timeless depicts a train travelling through eight decades, starting in the 1930’s, and aims to highlight the “timeless elegance” of Lacoste’s polo shirt throughout years of changes in fashion styles.]

What are your future ambitions for the brand in travel retail?

The Lacoste strategy in travel retail is quite clear. Going back to what I mentioned at the beginning of this interview – we have a double objective. One is to leverage travel retail as a medium for the brand. We invest in each and every POS to ensure we have the latest brand concept and the best possible consumer experience. We also invest in the airports in general in terms of OHO media to ensure the brand has prominent exposure in key touchpoints of the travel journey. On the other side of the coin, our concurrent aim to develop the business. From this perspective, we need to drive our productivity.

We have the tools already with a very productive brand and some iconic products that sell very well – but, as you know, it’s a very competitive market. If we want to have the best location in the travel retail environment, we also have to provide the best return to our partners – be they airports or operators. Therein lies our dual ambition. One is build the brand through travel retail and at the same time build a very productive business for our partners and for ourselves to deserve the right treatment. Our objective in this business is to grow qualitatively, specifically in the top airport locations around the world.