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High customs duties and mall rentals add pressure to the sustainability of a luxury brand: Eliana Koulas

In an exclusive conversation with Eliana Koulas, Director/Partner Luxus Retail & Director of La Martina, India sheds light on growth strategy of the brand.

Tags: Polo, Ralph Lauren, Etiqueta Negra, affodable, luxury

BY Shipra Srivastava  |  December 11, 2017  |  comments ( 0 )  | 

Eliana Koulas

Kindly shed light on La Martina’s India foray? What is your assessment about India’s sportswear market in luxury space, kindly state few numbers to quantify the same?

La Martina is a deeply authentic brand. Its style was born on the polo fields and from the beginning, the vision was to create an Argentine brand that could expand internationally closely linked to Polo and share the sport values such as sacrifice, elegance, luxury and skills which constitute the DNA of who we are. To achieve this purpose, La Martina spread its passion around the world, extending its footprint to India. To win in India you have to be relevant in India.  The brand has experienced incredible market acceptance since its inception in 2014, and as a result is increasing by 20-25% per annum.

We’ve also designed various store window themes dedicated to India, which is another example of our commitment and honor towards its people. In respect to the sportswear apparel space, we have witnessed that the comfort of wearing sportswear apparel even in non-athletic settings has been in trend for a while in the west but has now slowly penetrated the Indian market. Fitness has become the mantra of life and is slowly setting into a national obsession. There is also a huge rise in fitness-consciousness where customers are looking at athletics not only as a hobby, but also as a lifestyle. 

What kind of distribution the brand has in Indian market in online as well as offline space ?

 As we foray into the online space, we are working on various Digital online and repositioning strategies. Most international online/offline platforms often have a variation in their product offerings(as compared to their Indian counterpart) and price point versus the local players, as some products are market specific; therefore we did not witness any competition in this segment.  In the current scenario, 85% of our products are sold through our retail stores and MBO formats, and 15% are sold through private appointments and promos. 

How many categories the brand has introduced in Indian market? What are the plans to expand the categories in this market? Also shed light on your best selling line?

 So far, we have introduced women’s wear, men’s wear, kids wear, leather goods, shoes, scarves, eyewear & fragrances.  From the beginning, the vision was to create an Argentine brand that could expand internationally closely linked to Polo and share the sport values.

The polo t-shirt has been, and will always remain our highest best seller due to its high-detailed construction and true representation of a polo-inspired product. As we know it today, its a mix of style and performance. It combines the elegance of the shirt, with its collar shortened for convenience and a hint of a buttoned down front feature, combining the comfort, breathability and ease of a t-shirt.

How do you differentiate La Martina from other sportswear brands such as Puma, Adidas, etc which are premium lifestyle brands? Also, if we talk about Polo T, Lacoste is the undisputed leader in this segment. Do you see them as your competition? Otherwise, who could be your potential competitor?  

Considering the target which La Martina aims, competitors are the brands that "Ride" the traditions and the world of Polo, such as “Polo Ralph Lauren” and Etiqueta Negra. Currently, neither brands have made a full fledged foray into the Indian market. 

What kind of marketing initiatives the brand has taken to promote the brand to this market? Also, shed light on your target group?

We created our positioning and brand awareness strategies in order to generate demand through which we've done via cross promotions and other affiliates. This has further aligned our brand with our core DNA of the brands vision and mission embedding the spirit of polo into everything we do.  We have a global sports marketing strategy in place, which is La Martina’s new driving force in customer engagement and outreach. Our focus is transcending the old and moving towards an era of digital evolution and new customer experiences. We believe that experience is the new brand of today. Ever since India had a historical association with polo from the Royal Maharaja Era, it is evident that Indians have long been the patrons of luxury and refinement. 

What is your starting and exiting price point in men’s as well as women’s category?

Our prices range between Rs. 5000 -  Rs. 112,000, however our most popular price band is Rs.13,000 for our mid range polos& shirts. This fits into the ‘affordable luxury’ category. 

According to you what are the major challenges as far as luxury retailing is concerned?

High customs duties & mall rentals adds pressure to the sustainability of a brand since there are huge initial investment and operational costs before the get-go. Ideally the rent should be pegged at about 10-12% of the total revenue for a brand to do well.Pricing and distribution are amongst the key challenges where luxury goods in India are generally over 25-30% more expensive than other major markets after including duties and taxes. In order to keep a global approach and maintain the impact of the brand image, it is ideal retaining the pricing fairly equal to the rest of the world.

At last, kindly mention your growth plans to extend the brand from here?

Until recently, a lot of international brands held back going the digital route as it would eliminate the physical experience, however we are witnessing that this is enabling customers to purchase more if we give them an online opportunity. The digital online influence is currently not so much used for commercial viability but more to connect better with our consumers and reinforce the physical experience at every level. Our global strategy is propelling us to implement our own e-commerce website for La Martina specific to India. This is a huge growth opportunity for the brand, which will facilitate online shopping targeted to reach customers all over India via a local platform. The retail offering with a huge product range providing a seamless shopping experience. We see this new turning point for the online Indian luxury brand space and hope to be pioneering it.

 

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