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Cooking Up a Storm – Le Creuset

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After creating visibility in India through pop-up stores and select retailers, and marking its presence within the HORECA sector, Le Creuset, the French cookware brand, has now launched its first company-owned exclusive outlet at the Select Citywalk mall, New Delhi. The 1,200 sq.ft. store carries the company’s enamelled cast iron, 3-ply stainless steel and award-winning toughened non-stick pans, stoneware cooking and baking pieces, kitchen textiles, silicone tools, and wine accessories. Founded in 1925 in the town of Fresnoy-le-Grand in northern France by two Belgian industrialists, the brand is best known for its bright, enamelled cookware.

The journey in India

The iconic French cookware brand, which is among the top three cookware brands of the world, chose a very different approach to enter the Indian market. The company, which was dominant in the HORECA channel, first tested waters the wholesale route before making its presence felt via pop-up stores. “As a global company strategy, we wanted to open company-owned stores. However, the FDI had not opened up until last year. And when it did, Le Creuset was among the first companies to apply and then procure the single brand licence in 2013. We then wanted to open company-owned exclusive stores in the right premium markets and in the interim, provide an exposure of our brand to Indian consumers through our pop-up store concept. We got the right space in Select Citywalk and immediately grabbed the opportunity to open our first company-owned store, which will be followed by more stores as and when we get the right spaces in relevant markets,” explains Ankur Damani, Commercial Manager, Le Creuset India.

Talking about the growth in India Damani said: “There are immense opportunities in the HORECA sector, which is growing rapidly and chefs and hotels aspire to cook in Le Creuset products. There has been considerable organic growth in our points of sale and brand awareness has increased manifold. The pop-up store concept was extremely successful and the response to our first store has been overwhelming. We hope to expand our retail footprint in relevant niche markets.” The growth strategy is to further strengthen our foothold in the HORECA channel and expand in wholesale, retail and e-commerce channels. Le Creuset already supplies to most of the leading five-star hotel chains in India like Westin, Trident, Taj, Hilton and so on.

The first store

The Le Creuset store in Delhi is classy with an international feel to it. The brightly coloured cookware lends the store its vibrancy. The company plans to hold cook-offs, and live cooking demos and talks to explain the product to the consumers and to keep them engaged.

Cast iron versus stainless steel

Since Indians predominantly use stainless steel, the concept of cast iron is a pretty new one. The cast iron cookware is also heavy and cumbersome to cook with. However, Damani is bullish on its success in India. “Those who have travelled internationally and are aware of the new innovations know that if it is cast iron, it is Le Creuset. Cast Iron is slowly picking up and those who are not aware and are open to experimenting are really enjoying the experience. The colours, designs and the features that you can cook and serve in the same cookware is extremely attractive, and customers are loving this unique offering,” explains Damani. The fact that the Le Creuset cookware comes with a lifetime guarantee may augur well for the brand and find resonance with a section of society that believes in high-quality cookware. Being a premium and aspirational product, the Le Creuset cookware price ranges from Rs. 500 to Rs. 45,000.

The India strategy

Building up a strong PR and communications strategy, which is focussed and targeted at the core customer segment, is one of the ways Le Creuset plans to reach out and popularise its products. The company also conducts product demonstrations and events both in the HORECA and consumer space on an ongoing basis. Associating with top chefs across the nation is also something Le Creuset has been successfully doing. The largest markets for Le Creuset are USA and Europe.

Expectations from the Indian market

Luxury in India is growing exponentially and moving from the living room to the kitchen. Add to that fact that Indians are becoming more health conscious and willing to spend on the right product, which promises value for money. This makes Le Creuset very relevant in the Indian context – the product offering is unique and the brand offers lifetime guarantee, which makes it a one-time investment. The fastest selling segment at Le Creuset is the cast iron cookware owing to its attractiveness and stove-to-table concept. The Stoneware, Steel Ply, and Toughened Non-Stick range are also finding many takers in India.

Future plans

Going ahead the company plans to open more company-owned stores in key high streets and malls in major metros before extending their reach in the HORECA channel. Tying up with niche MBOs and e-commerce players is also on the cards. “We plan on partnering with premium e-commerce sites that cater to the needs of our consumer and fit our requirement and also those who do not provide any offers or discounts,” states Damani.

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