PARIS — Lacoste has unveiled a gleaming new flagship on the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the culmination of an extensive revamp geared at rejuvenating the image of the sportswear brand famed for its crocodile logo.
The 4,300-square-foot unit at No. 95 features a new design concept by Christophe Pillet and Jeremy Hourde, which will be replicated in other flagships, including Lacoste’s largest unit worldwide on Fifth Avenue in New York City, set to undergo a makeover this summer.
“There had been no major evolution in the store concept in 10 years, so it’s a real first,” José Luis Duran, chief executive officer of Devanlay SA, Lacoste’s global apparel licensee, told WWD. “The store has become more than just a store, it acts as a showcase for the group and the brand.”
The brand will roll out a black carpet on the historic thoroughfare today for its official opening party, featuring DJs and performers.
Duran, who took over in late 2009, said changes were made on three fronts: image, segmentation and customer service.
“Most of the products now are presented on hangers rather than folded, in order to encourage the customer to touch and try the clothes, as this was one of our weaknesses in the past,” he noted.
The Champs-Elysées unit features two separate entrances, one on the left leading to the main sportswear collection and another on the right providing access to a space reserved exclusively for the recently launched Lacoste Live line, targeting a younger, more contemporary customer.
The two sections are linked by a first floor featuring footwear, a “polo bar” with a rainbow assortment of its iconic polo shirts, women’s wear and accessories. Throughout, giant video screens and revolving display boards showcase images from the past and present.
In a bid to provide customers with a more personalized experience, the number of sales staff at the store has been increased by more than 50 percent.
The same principles will be applied to 300 to 400 of Lacoste’s existing stores worldwide, although choices will be more drastic, since they average just 1,100 square feet.
“We are screening all the stores and we are segmenting the stores themselves,” Duran explained. “Each one is being evaluated according to their catchment area and the surrounding competition, and we’re going to ‘specialize’ each store.”
The process has already begun in Paris, where there is now a children’s wear store on the Left Bank and a Lacoste Live unit in the historic Marais district. Further Lacoste Live stores have opened in New York City, London, Shanghai and Seoul, and another will be unveiled in Berlin next month.
Simultaneously, the brand has selectively inaugurated Lacoste Live corners in department stores worldwide, including Printemps in Paris, Selfridges in the United Kingdom and Bloomingdales in the United States.
The subbrand, which replaced the Lacoste Red line last fall, has already started to deliver results, said Duran. It is expected to account for at least 10 percent of overall sales by the end of 2012, versus 6.3 percent in 2010 and 2.5 percent in 2008, when it was still known as Lacoste Red, he noted.
The Lacoste Live collection will be extended to women starting with the autumn-winter 2011/2012 collection, and now has a permanent design staff of four under the supervision of Lacoste’s new creative director Felipe Oliveira Baptista, versus just one previously.
Lacoste has dedicated some 6 million euros, or $8.7 million, to a separate advertising campaign for the line targeted at the Web and social networks (http://www.lacoste.com/live/#/home). Globally, Lacoste’s advertising budget is set to rise by 10 to 20 percent in 2011 following the rollout of a new mainstream media campaign with the tagline “Unconventional Chic” in January.
Duran said sales grew in the double digits during the first four months of the year and he hopes to keep that momentum going for 2011 as a whole. Apparel sales at Lacoste grew by 6 to 7 percent last year from a 2009 total of roughly one billion euros, or $1.4 billion. All dollar rates are calculated at average exchange rates for the period in question.
While Asia and Latin America continue to lead the pack, the U.S. and France are rapidly catching up, he noted.
“This is the first year since 2008 where we will see a real return to growth, and globally, this strategy of segmentation, visibility and remodeling existing stores is bearing fruit,” Duran said.