WHP Global’s acquisition of Lotto Sport Italia may pay off rather handsomely and soon.
The brand management firm is on the verge of announcing a deal with e-commerce juggernaut Coupang for exclusive distribution of the Italian tennis and soccer brand in its native South Korea, WWD has learned.
Under the deal, Coupang will be the sole source of Lotto goods, bringing a select collection of men’s and women’s lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories to South Korean consumers.
“Coupang is always looking to provide the best possible shopping experience for our customers, whether it’s by innovating our services or expanding our ever-growing selection of products,” the e-commerce company is quoted as saying in the upcoming announcement. “We are excited to partner with WHP to offer the iconic Lotto brand and other high-quality apparel in Korea, and will continue seeking new opportunities to make Coupang Fashion the premier shopping destination for all our customers’ fashion needs.”
With some 92 percent internet usage among consumers, South Korea nabbed $92 billion in total revenue in 2021 for a growth of 14 percent, securing its place behind the German market, but ahead of France. That qualified it as the sixth largest market for e-commerce in the world last year. Some forecasts predict even more acceleration, with the country on track to reach third place, behind only the U.S. and China.
In August, when WWD broke the news of WHP Global’s bid to buy Lotto, the plan included a rapid expansion of the brand in the U.S. The New York-based firm, which counts Joseph Abboud, Anne Klein and others in its portfolio, was reportedly interested in scooping up Reebok at the time as well, only to see it go to Authentic Brands Group.
No matter. With Lotto, Yehuda Shmidman, chief executive officer of WHP Global, has a classic sportswear and lifestyle brand on his hands that’s carried in more than 100 countries. Across nearly 50 years, the business has outfitted the likes of professional soccer teams and elite players, such as Dino Zoff, Ruud Gullit and Andriy Shevchenko, as well as tennis legends like Martina Navratilova, Francesca Schiavone, Marion Bartoli and Boris Becker.
In all, the brand’s signature double diamond logo and performance-driven products adorn more than 40 soccer teams, 300 pro soccer players and 200 pro tennis players.
But in the U.S., availability was limited, making the market a key target for initial expansion. Even so, Shmidman couldn’t help but note from the outset that “the vast majority of the business is in Europe, Asia and Latin America,” he explained in August. “We’ll be investing in it big time in the future.”
The vision takes shape now with Seoul-based Coupang, a massive shopping platform often referred to as “the Amazon of Korea,” with nearly 18 million active customers. The relationship could even stretch beyond Lotto, WHP teased.
According to Stanley Silverstein, chief commercial officer of WHP Global: “Coupang is one of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce companies and our partnership provides a powerful opportunity to quickly expand the online presence, not only for Lotto, but also for our portfolio of global brands in a key consumer market.”