Lacoste to continue strengthening the omni-channel network. The brand aims to keep upgrading the boutiques to provide more premium experience to customers visiting the stores
Looking back, if you had to pen down your top 3 learnings from 2022, what would they be?
The year 2022 has been a milestone in the sense of decent recovery after a serious downturn due to the pandemic in 2020-21. Post lifting of lockdown, the comeback of customers to shopping, both online and offline, was initially considered by many as pent up demand/ revenge buying. However, if we look back, we would see that serious growth comes for 3-4 years after any such major downside. We can validate this with the growth seen after the downturn around 2001/2002, recession in 2007/2008 and a few other such events in the past few years.
2022 proved to be a live example where the history repeated itself. Most retailers, including us, saw decent growth in year 2022 and in my opinion, it was not driven by pent up demand or revenge buying alone.
The top three learnings from the year 2022 would be:
– Life comes in phases and as we witness some big incident that results in a major downtrend in retail industry and decent growth is followed after the event is over. Of course, the mantra is to stay afloat and sustain operations during the period of downward journey.
– Fashion industry has always been a synonym for looking and feeling good & comfortable. Post Covid 19 and with development of technology, customers are now looking for convenience as well. Retailers need to be present where their target customer is present. Hence, it has become more important now to be present through multi channels; Online and Offline, EBOs & MBOs, travel retail and city retail, etc. and further enable capabilities of being omnichannel.
Omni-channel platform can supplement this multi-channel presence to ensure that the customers do not return back due to non availability of size, colour or a particular product.
– Collaboration is extremely important to survive. The way retailers and developers collaborated with each other during the pandemic, was unprecedented. In fact, the phase taught all of us that collaboration with all stakeholders is extremely important for retailers to work efficiently. Whether it is your customers, shareholders , board, developers, suppliers, partners, employees etc. constructive collaboration helps us sail through the tough times together.
What is the vision 2023 for your brand?
The vision is to continue to attain the sustainable growth, and especially in 2023 the growth will be based on three important aspects:
– Next level of premiumization of the brand in the country in all respects, whether having bigger and better doors with our latest global Le Club concept or great quality products taking care of sustainability as an important criteria and all other related aspects.
– Second is operational excellence, where we plan to enhance our operational capabilities.
– Third is the customer delight, which can be done by focusing more on ease and convenience for the customers, and of course making great quality products.
Tell us about the brand growth in the last cycle? Highlight on the key elements which helped you achieve this number?
We witnessed decent growth in 2022. Our top line numbers stood much higher than even the pre-pandemic levels. It was a multi-pronged approach that helped us achieve this growth. We focused on enhancing our range and introduced new collections and range that
was really liked by our customers, who showed their appreciation by buying more. Then, we worked on the overall customer experience as well.
In this cycle, we upgraded both offline and online experience, by making our physical boutiques more premium and our digital flagship (website) more interactive, along with partnering with premium online marketplaces. The scope of digital commerce is huge, and hence a large percentage of our marketing budgets was utilised in digital marketing, that yielded good results in 2022.
Another important factor was that at a time when supply chain has taken a huge hit globally, we were able to manage it efficiently. We could make our launches available at our ‘Points of Sale’ in a timely manner despite all logistical challenges across the world and that helped us in maintaining freshness in our boutiques.
Tell us about your expansion plans? Tier I or Tier II/III cities, your preferred choice for expansion? Reasons.
We are currently physically present in most metro, big cities, apart from few Tier I & II cities. We follow a decent expansion plan and add 4-6 points of sale every year. We will follow the same model in the 2023 as well.
There is a huge potential in India due to massive exposure to global trends, through Internet, social media, and global travel. Hence, we keep exploring the opportunities in all cities including smaller cities where our like-minded brands and our TG is present. Currently, for our customers present in Tier II & III cities and beyond that, we have expanded via several e-commerce channels, supported by our omni-channel network.
Anyone across India can buy Lacoste products via our digital flagship website along with select online marketplaces.
What are the innovative in-store experiences that your brand has introduced to enhance customer experience?
This year, the priority was to upgrade the offline experiences with bigger and better premium boutiques. A large section of customers returned to malls and physical stores. We recently revamped our top boutiques in Mumbai and Delhi and took bigger spaces, wherever we felt the need/scope of improvement. The plan is to follow similar approach in 2023 as well wherever we see an opportunity to do better.
Tell us about the tech innovations implemented and the impact of it?
Importance of technology as a tool cannot be over-emphasized in modern times and we use it in almost all our operations. Starting with supply chain where technology helps us in managing our inventory efficiently by analyzing the demand for right products at the right place and time. Tech is used in our CRM as well. In digital marketing, technology helps us in analyzing and targeting the right audience and tools to use. Recently, we implemented a new planning software as well that helps in projecting the demand upto the size and colour levels too. Like this, there are more technological tools as well that have been very impactful for us.
Going forward, which technologies and initiatives are you looking forward to?
We are looking forward to make our online channels more robust going forward. Whether it is through digital marketing, CRM tools and more. Also, being an ethical brand for years, it is our responsibility to keep setting new standards for becoming more responsible towards the environment. Hence, we have set certain targets globally to adapt more sustainable
practices and reduce carbon footprint with defined timelines. This responsibility goes beyond our own organisation. There are certain criteria, which our suppliers also follow to take due care of the environment and to comply with social laws. We as a company are committed towards ESG.
Apart from this, what also seems promising for the future is emerging technologies like Metaverse, though these might take another few years to get into implementable stages.
Are the new categories in the pipeline? If yes, please elaborate.
We keep launching new collections every year and the same would be followed in 2023 as well. At this stage, we can’t share too much around the upcoming collections, however, I can say there would be interesting collaborations to watch in 2023.
How are you laying the bricks for growth and success in the New Year? Is it going to be an omni-channel journey or putting action to digital transformation or accelerating processes with technology or something else? Tell us your thoughts.
Most of the answers are actually there in the question itself. It is always the multipronged approach that helps in driving growth and success, especially in retail. In my opinion, India’s fashion industry will keep witnessing accelerated growth in 2023, with premium retail developments taking place not just in major cities and metros, but also in Tier-I and Tier-II cities. We are keenly watching these developments and will evaluate relevant projects for a physical presence.
We will continue to strengthen our omnichannel network. It’s the beautiful amalgamation of physical and digital that drives growth for any retail brand. Hence, we will keep upgrading our boutiques to provide more premium experience to customers visiting the stores.Along with that, we will also keep improving and expanding our presence on digital platforms as well.Customer experience is the top priority. With that, the focus will remain on increasing our digital marketing spends, enabling new technologies in our operations, strengthening our supply chain and more. We hope to achieve growth by a multipronged approach targeting all key areas.
Elaborate on the initiatives (marketing and digital) which were a success in this period?
Our investment in digital marketing increased significantly this year. We have also set a practice where a certain percentage of revenue received from our digital flagship sales is utilized in digital marketing in addition to certain minimum percentage of sales that is anyway invested in overall marketing initiatives. We are witnessing good results from this and as a result, we were also able to invite many new customers to our ‘Club Lacoste’ family this year.