PARIS — Lacoste is angling for an upscale, sporty feel for its new store concept, carving out room for faster-growing categories likes shoes and accessories.
The new stores also emphasize the label’s trademark polo with a wall dedicated to the shirts as the company doubles down on its roots, reflecting its strategy for an e-commerce era.
As brands jockey for attention from today’s highly solicited consumer, many are refashioning physical stores as streamlined showcases meant to project the identity of a brand while offering a larger selection of products online.
Lacoste chief executive officer Thierry Guibert, who set teams to work drawing up the new concept around 18 months ago, launched the redesign project with the idea that customers should be able to see they’re in a Lacoste store before even exploring the merchandise.
“When you entered the stores, they looked nice but you couldn’t tell it was Lacoste,” said Guibert, of the previous model. He has opened two of the new stores in London and Paris, with a third slated to open in November in Los Angeles.
The wall of polo shirts in the first redesigned Paris store comes with its own section, featuring a tall counter meant for inspecting and folding the shirts, where customers can perch on wooden stools. Rows of white metal trays, filled with perfectly folded polo shirts, adorn the wall and a large screen displays images of the shirt. On the floor, a large, circular patch of dark cement contrasts with the light-colored wood flooring throughout the rest of the store. There is also a bench and a coffee table, with a selection of books about the brand and a kid’s book about a cartoon crocodile.
Dark green touches, like the pillows on the benches in dark green with white seams, are meant to evoke a green and white-lined tennis court. The upholstery is a thick version of the brand’s trademark piqué fabric, in a nod to the polo shirts.
The new concept includes another wall dedicated to footwear, a category the company is banking on for future growth.
“We want to integrate shoes and other leather goods with the textiles in all of the stores,” said Guibert, explaining that not long ago, the company offered only a handful of shoe choices while they are now becoming an important part of the brand’s statement.
In the past two years, shoe sales have swelled to account for nearly a quarter of the business, compared to 10 percent in the past, he estimated. The executive said he expects this proportion to reach around a third, noting that the shoes play an important role in generating appeal with younger consumers.
Traveling bags of various sizes are another important growing category for the brand.
“Today there are 20 million Asians traveling every day, so this is a fundamental element in our development strategy,” noted Guibert.
Other features of the Paris store include a screen behind the checkout counter, flashing images of Lacoste fashion shows at one point, as well as historic images of René Lacoste playing tennis that alternate with pictures of brand ambassador Novak Djokovic.
Dressing rooms are fashioned like an upscale sports locker room, mixing light wood and white metal.
Around three years into his job, Guibert has also been overhauling the distribution network in order to gain greater control of it. He closed hundreds of points of sale in the U.S. and bought a Spanish distributor outright.
While the process meant lower volumes and sales in the short-term, the company said around a year and a half later, it is starting to pay off, helping it to reduce discounting in the U.S., for example, where the brand now sells seven out of 10 items at full price, a much larger proportion than competing American labels. The company is concentrating its U.S. network mostly on warmer regions like California, Texas, Florida, in addition to New York.
Lacoste will initially focus the redesign efforts on around 100 stores in the larger cities of the brand’s strongest markets, mainly in France, the U.S., Asia and the rest of Europe, including the U.K. and Germany.
Lacoste counts around 1,200 stores worldwide. Guibert estimates that the company will redo about a third of the stores in the next year and a half.
“The new concept should be quite visible between now and halfway through 2019,” he said.
Privately owned by the Swiss retail group Maus Frères SA, Lacoste does not disclose financial details.
The redesign was also fashioned with Internet sales in mind, with tablets on hand to complete the offer in stores.
“For brands like us, with small stores it’s a useful tool,” said Guibert.
For the past year, the company has been working on developing tablets in French and American stores, which account for about 10 percent of the label’s business. Lacoste uses them to expand the offer with, for example, some of the 40 different colors of polo shirts available each season that might not be in stock, with 24 hour delivery.
“It’s a fundamental element of our Internet strategy to provide clients with the entire range of products,” said Guibert.
Next up for the revamp is a store in a shopping center just outside of Paris and two more in Los Angeles, one on Rodeo Drive next month and another in Westfield Century City in Spring 2018. Los Angeles will also be the site for a lavish party on Nov. 7 with Novak Djocovic.