CEO Rajesh Jain at the Delhi Connaught Place store (Photo: Ravi Chaudhary)
A clutch of Indian retailers is suddenly thinking big, bold and beyond. With abundant retail space, greater visibility for their premium products and enhanced mass appeal, large format stores are popping up everywhere. It started with retail giants like Spencer’s and Pantaloon setting up stores ranging in size between 30,000 sq ft and 100,000 sq ft. Today, there is no dearth of such stores: you find them glinting on the curb, tempting you to run inside to get a taste of them. Lacoste joined the club with its giant store in Delhi’s Connaught Place area. Now, with the opening of its Polo Lounge in Mumbai, it is ready to give consumers a taste of the first-ever mono-product concept store in the world.
Located in the heart of Linking Road, the lounge houses polo shirts in more than 50 styles and colours for every season. The idea is to bombard clients with options: no matter what their personal preference, Lacoste has something for them. The company says the concept has been welcomed with open arms, as nobody in Mumbai has the time to go from one shop to another. “I prefer to spend my precious time in a place that can meet all my requirements. When at the Polo Lounge, one can pick whatever one likes complete his or her outfit,” says Disha Upadhaya, a fashion designer in Mumbai.
The store has a ‘polo wall’ dedicated to Lacoste’s most iconic product range; it even explains the various fits for the benefit of customers. The ‘Polo Bar’ demonstrates the vast range of colours available, while a smaller bar houses special capsules and global collector series of shirts. “This concept provides the perfect platform for our new, more exclusive service and gives customers a real introduction to the brand. Polo, as a product, has grown to become a category of its own over the last five to eight years and many premium and affordable brands have entered India with polo offerings. Back in 1993 when Lacoste entered India, we were perhaps the only international brand in the apparel market to offer the polo shirt. Now, it’s an easily recognised type of garment that is being made and sold by local retailers as well as luxury brands,” says Rajesh Jain, CEO and director of Lacoste India, adding that the brand continues to stand strong on its core values of attention to detail, comfort and the habit of innovation.
Jain says the initial response to the Mumbai store has surpassed their projections. “There has been a marked increase in sales and quantity by 33 per cent, which has catapulted our expectation on totality to 120 per cent growth by the next fiscal,” he adds. Lacoste currently has a strong brand presence in Indian metros with over 35 points of sale. By 2014, this number is slated to go up to 61, with more openings in cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Chandigarh, Goa and Jalandhar, besides new outlets in Mumbai and New Delhi. “Given changing consumer behaviour and increasing awareness among our target audiences in tier 2 cities, expansion in these locations will become more prominent in the coming years,” says Jain.
Ask the CEO the reason for the brand’s recent surge, and he attributes it to “today’s youth being extremely aware and confident of their choices”. Brands, he says, play a very important role in ruling their purchase behaviour, as it defines their personality to a certain level. No wonder then that 30 to 40 per cent of Lacoste’s clients are the youth.
Perhaps, it’s with this in mind that the brand has opened a Lacoste L!VE Boutique at Select City Walk in the capital. Lacoste L!VE is a youth-centric offering from Lacoste and is targeted largely at young patrons. The products here are edgy but priced slightly lower than at the general Lacoste store. “Though I must say pricing is not a deterrent for discerning customers who value quality and innovation,” adds Jain quickly.
The company positions Lacoste L!VE as a an “unexpected and cool combination of Lacoste original style and street art”. Think of it as “the croc buys into vintage, and a new kind of music shakes up polos, jeans and track jackets with slimmer and younger fits,” says the website. The clothes in the store are a mix of old-school style and new attitude and colours. The mood is always “unconventional chic”, as the company likes to call it.
Over the years, Lacoste has evolved from a men’s polo-centric brand to a complete lifestyle brand that markets trendy and colourful clothing and accessories for men, women and children. In fact, the campaign for Spring 2012 was the first in the brand’s history to put the focus on women. The result? A collection that was casual and feminine and yet didn’t stay from the brand’s sporting heritage even for a moment.
No wonder, the new stores are packed with both sexes. They certainly have the space for them.