At the head of Lacoste, Thierry Giber is betting on sports fashion to accelerate growth

May 17, 2022 at 3 p.m.

The crocodile returns to the Champs Elysees. If certain brands believe that the famous Avenue de Paris is losing its force, Lacoste takes the opposite view. And is going to open – on the corner of Colosseum – its new flagship store. With an area of ​​1,600 square meters on several levels, which includes a room in the basement for events and accommodation of all collections, this flagship represents the revival of the third most famous French brand in the world. Since November 2012, it belongs to the Swiss family group Maus Frères, which is not included in the list, renamed the MF Brands Group (Lacoste, Aigle, Gant, Technifibre, The Kooples), a company founded by champion Rene Lacoste in 1933, continues to grow.

Renewal thanks to a strategy developed by its CEO since 2015, Thierry Gieber, 52. This former Kering employee, who began his career in a group led by François-Henri Pino as financial controller before becoming CEO of Fnac and then boss of Conforama, is leading a change in the company’s positioning to make it one of the international ones. pillars of sports fashion. “My goal was to turn the company best known for its licenses into its own brand, explains this leader, who dreamed of becoming a professional footballer before a knee injury brought him to the benches of Neoma, Reims’ business school. She had all the potential. It just had to be wanted again. »

This specialist in specialized distribution, able to increase the profitability of Conforama in the midst of the crisis in the furniture market, acted methodically. “We started by slightly reducing the scope of distribution, especially in the United States. We continued to buy licenses for shoes, leather goods and underwear to be the masters of our range. With a desire to return to the basics: elegance in sports. »

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Between 10 and 15 million polo shirts a year

The revival is reflected in the figures: from 2018, sales increased by 28%, and then again by 11% in 2019. And if Lacoste still sells 10 to 15 million polo shirts a year, the product offering is diversifying, among other things, by increasing the crucial footwear industry: 20% turnover, instead of 7% by 2015.

Lacoste, which employs 8,300 people, is betting more on tennis than ever before, equipping champions Novak Djokovic, Danilo Medvedev and, most recently, Venus Williams. But let’s get back to golf. The tricolor delegation at the Olympics in Paris will also wear its colors. “I prefer to focus on one or two of the main sports and the values ​​they embody, offering products that combine comfort and design, because our customers are not just athletes.”, explains Thierry Giber. The women’s collection, updated in 2013 but unsuccessful at the time, has been completely redesigned, with an emphasis on active wear, from leggings to sports bras. “Consumers around the world want to be able to move from one universe to another without changing clothes”, adds the man who has since become CEO of Maus. An indisputable sign of the trust shown to him by his shareholders. He was indeed the first not to come from a family background after the creation of the Swiss group in 1902.

If Lacoste for two years suffered from repeated restrictions and restrictions on variable geometry in all its markets (Asia with 25% of sales, the United States with 19% and then France, 18%), the health crisis allowed the company to accelerate. online sales: from 2% of online sales jumped to 30% of total. “This is 10-15 points more than most of our competitors”congratulates the leader, who acknowledges that this growth has helped to withstand the crisis.

Lacoste is an inclusive brand

The growth is also based on controlled prices for the premium brand (on average from 200 to 400 euros). In 2021, Lacoste’s turnover increased again by 18% compared to 2020 and even 3% compared to 2019, before the pandemic. Since the beginning of this year, growth has reached 20% compared to the same period before Covid. Transversal, a brand with a crocodile is very popular, from beautiful areas to the suburbs. Variety that the manager likes: “Lacoste is an inclusive brand, and that’s good. All groups can be found in our stores. »

Breaks in supply chains, increased delivery times and inflation in transport costs have not yet been reflected on the labels, but Thierry Gieber remains cautious: “If before transportation by boat took three weeks, today – eight. For a price multiplied by at least five. The stronger brands like Lacoste, the better they will resist. »

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