India has been inspiring the luxury and fashion industry for years and has been a source of inspiration for the rest of the world for decades.
This is a huge growth opportunity for new players entering the market where they have the chance for an early brand seeding. It requires mammoth patience and financial commitment in order to thrive and survive in the luxury business with a minimum of three to five years to start making profits.
And one such brand which has placed its bet on India is Argentina-based luxury brand La Martina – a polo lifestyle company known for its apparel, technical equipment and accessories – started its India operations in 2014 with the launch of its maiden store in the capital’s most coveted luxury mall, DLF Emporio.
Talking to Indiaretailing, Eliana Koulas, Director/Partner, Luxus Retail & Director of La Martina, India points out that La Martina falls in affordable luxury segment and says that the brand doesn’t have any direct competitors in India.
Tell us about brand La Martina and its journey till date.
Lando Simonetti is the Founder, Visionary and Owner of La Martina. He took up the challenge to create his own company, starting with the link between clothing and Polo. The English invented the sport but it developed in Argentina. From the beginning, the vision was to create an Argentine brand that could expand internationally, closely linked to Polo and sharing with the sport values such as sacrifice, elegance, luxury and skills which constitute the DNA of La Martina. To achieve this purpose, Lando spread his passion around the world, fostering the development of Polo in every country he visited and making La Martina the official supplier of the most prestigious Polo events.
What is the USP of the brand that helps it stand apart from other luxury brands in India?
At La Martina our brand boasts of comfort and casual luxury and all that well-being encompasses. Our polo inspired products are our USP where customers feel the connection to the world and lifestyle of Polo. We have added some Indian accents to the store giving a local touch points to our customers and launched various India-theme store windows and special seasonal collections in our clothing line, which is another prime example of our dedication and honor towards India.
Elaborate on your product portfolio and any plans to expand it further?
We currently stock an array of clothing, shoes, bags, small leather goods, sunglasses, fragrances and scarves in both men’s and women’s wear. We are constantly innovating and reinventing new products within the same categories, which are high on style and functionality.
Which is the fastest moving category at your stores?
The Polo T-shirt has been and will always remain our highest best seller due to its high-detailed construction and true representation of a Polo-inspired product. A customer feels the instant connection to the world of Polo.
Tell us about your pricing strategy and who is your TG?
Pricing and distribution are amongst the key challenges where luxury goods in India are generally pegged 30 percent more than other major markets – after including duties and taxes. In order to keep a global approach and maintain the impact of the brand image, we aim to retain our pricing fairly competitive with rest of the world.
Currently, our main audience ranges from young professionals, as well as first-generation entrepreneurs to industrialists. La Martina is aimed at the male target audience relying on the evocative power of the game of Polo, however we have a key focus on the luxury clothing aficionados who are also women and are now ready for a breath of fresh air in Polo wear.
Tell us about the tech innovations introduced at the stores? How is the store experience different from that of other brands in India?
Flagship stores are the favourite places where La Martina clothing lives, they are the instrument through which La Martina shows its values. Comfortable sofas and spaces dedicated to relax give the essence of a home feel which is what makes an emotional impact to our customers. Crystal, silverware and high antique trade furniture create an extremely chic and refined atmosphere. All these elements provide an ‘old world charm’ which is closely associated with the La Martina design philosophy.
To keep up with the trend shifts, and since customer service standards have risen to great heights in technology, we have introduced more interactive technology such as as iPad look books VS print and live LED screens to revolutionise the customer shopping experience.
What is the location strategy for your stores – malls or high-street and why?
Currently, we have 2 EBO’s in New Delhi and Hyderabad, which are vital building blocks for the brand. The Delhi flagship store is a mall format, whilst the Hyderabad store is a high-street. We were more inclined to position Hyderabad on a high-street location. When we scouted for prime locations we realized there was no prime luxury destinations housing luxury brands, and found that Jubliee Hills had a denser, concentrated catchment for our audience which was ideal. Our neighbors positioned next to our store are Bentley Cars, and Bentley Furniture which is a perfect marriage of brand values comprising of elegance, luxury and skill.
Even though the high-street culture isn’t trending in India as much as the west, I think many successful high-street models like the Hermes Maison located at the Fort in Mumbai, or Zara’s newest icon established in a sprawling 51,000 sq ft space in a 110 year old heritage building located in South Mumbai are promising examples of where the future is heading for high-street retail in India. We recently tied up with The Collective via an MBO format to create brand salience and reach out to a wider audience.
What is your marketing strategy? What impact do these have on your business?
We created our positioning and brand awareness strategies in order to generate demand through which we’ve done via cross promotions and other affiliating partners. Our recent collaboration with well known fashion blogger and pioneer in the media world, Mariano Di Vaio is a sheer example to that. This has further aligned our brand globally with our core DNA of the brands vision and mission embedding the spirit of polo into everything we do.
How focused are you on e-commerce and what is your e-commerce strategy?
Until recently, a lot of international brands held back going the digital route as it would eliminate the physical experience, however, we are witnessing that it’s enabling customers to purchase more if we give them an online opportunity. The digital online influence is currently not so much used for commercial viability but more to connect better with our consumers and reinforce the physical experience at every level.
Our global strategy is propelling us to implement our own e-commerce website for La Martina specific to India. This is a huge growth opportunity for the brand which will facilitate online shopping targeted to reach customers all over India via a local platform. The retail offering with a huge product range providing a seamless shopping experience. We see this a new turning point for the online Indian luxury brand space and hope to be pioneering it.
Elaborate on your Omnichannel journey.
Today more than ever, the target of 27-35 years is influenced by buying habits of what is present online. La Martina’s strategy increasingly points on integration and Omnichannel between sales and communication platforms and is already a protagonist of the digitial revolution. Instagrammers, influencers, web stars are all drivers in order to impress and capture the customer, and we cannot ignore that 3 out of 4 purchases and will soon impact 99 percent of sales via digital influencing. Our Omnichannel platform will not just optimize sales and create cross-selling opportunities for our stores, but help us gain insights about the most popular products, sizes, preferences and who our real customers are. Furthermore, this platform will assist us in communicating directly with our customers through pushing content globally but still being able to manage our local content via the local web page via Omnichannel.
What steps have you taken to enhance the customer experience?
Offering a world-class global brand experience at La Martina with the best of breed products. We believe that experience is the new brand of today and by creating a 360-degree experience which is a consistent consumer journey across all the brand touch points i.e. product, retail e-commerce, events, social media, advertising and PR must all be in alignment.
Tell us about your retail expansion plans? What are the areas that you are targeting?
Currently, there has been a slowdown in store expansions in the luxury segment this year, as and when the luxury environment will grow, we shall be accelerating our expansion plans in Tier I cities.