Think Lacoste and you might picture a polo shirt with a crocodile motif on the left breast.
ADDRESS 52 Brompton Road, London SW3
OPENED June 7, 2012
STORE SIZE 6,500 sq ft
LACOSTE CHIEF EXECUTIVE Christophe Chenut
This might equally be accompanied by an insistent question about whether the garment is the genuine article as, along with Cartier and Rolex watches, this is one of the most popular fakes on the market in certain parts of the world.
The logic runs, however, that you might fool some folk into thinking you’re wearing a smart piece of tennis-related attire, but if it’s a copy you’re the one who’ll always know. With this in mind, a visit to the new Lacoste global flagship in Knightsbridge is an uplifting experience.
This three-floor shop used to be the home of French Connection on the Brompton Road but, following a 10-week refit, has emerged as one of the more interesting-looking stores between the tube on Sloane Street and Harrods.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
The core article is central to understanding how this store works.
‘Polo rooms’ on the first and ground floors turn out to be shelves along a section of the perimeter walls. The shirts are side-hung in open-fronted wardrobes, which are separated by clear Perspex on which fit guides are inscribed. In front of this is a white, museum-style cabinet with different-coloured polo shirts, each in its own glass-topped section. A good display then, but there is more to Lacoste than polos. This store has more in common with a minimalist fashion store; the Lacoste L!ve collection in the basement and sports collection with a white bike, rugby balls, footballs and skis add a sporty touch.
02 - CONCEPT
The concept is simple: each floor is a white box and has a big LED screen behind the cash desks. White mid-shop furniture, retro-chic white banquettes and graphics of tennis rackets and male and female tennis players complete the picture. Yet whether it’s the staircase with steps that let you see through or the ghetto blaster meets cash desk feature, there’s entertainment at every turn. The kids’ department, on the first floor, is like the rest of the shop in miniature.
03 - SERVICE
Willing, attentive and with good understanding of the products on display. There was little to find fault with as far as service was concerned. Appealingly, the deputy manager, who had worked in other Lacoste stores, was thrilled to be running the flagship on the day of visiting. Polo shirts are quite easy to create displays of, but maintaining them at a standard where the hefty price tags that characterise much of the Lacoste offer can be justified is not so easy.
Here it was being done efficiently and uncomplainingly.
04 - PRODUCT
Well, this is Knightsbridge, this is central London, and this is Lacoste, but it is still difficult not to wonder at a range of polo shirts that starts at £70 for men and slightly less for women and heads up towards the £100 mark. In fairness, if polos shirts are not your thing, deep vee T-shirts for women at £39 form part of the collection, as does a small range of denim jeans that seems reasonably priced when set against what most better-end brands do. Lacoste offers an inoffensive casual fashion range that extends from shorty trenches to accessories including watches, sunglasses and baseball hats.
It is possible to enter this store and kit yourself out from head to foot in clothes that do not require you to be incredibly svelte or to have an attitude – meaning it will have broad appeal.
05 - COMPETITION
Given that this is a sports-oriented range, there is relatively little competition in the immediate vicinity until you reach Harrods, which has a whole floor of branded sports and sports-attitude clothing. Those who favour Lacoste might well give the department store’s offer the once-over and, if they do, it’s a toss-up as to which would have shoppers reaching for their wallets. At first glance, this store benefits from its prime location and the fact that it’s hard to miss as you drive west along the Brompton Road. On this reckoning, it’s in a good position to deal with rivals.
06 - VERDICT - THE PROSPECTS ARE GOOD
There are those who might view Lacoste as a mildly retro brand for the predominantly male shopper of maturing years who wants to appear a little sportif. But the image is changing as new stores appear. This one fosters the notion of a brand that is relevant to younger consumers.
It is also a well-considered retail space, where each element has sufficient room to form a department instead of the usual modus operandi where things tend to get shoehorned in. This is a fine model for how to imbue an upscale label with mass appeal.