La Martina, the sportswear brand loved by polo players though also worn off the game fields, is starting a series of new projects aimed at making the brand grow internationally in an omnichannel market. Enrico Roselli, CEO, La Martina Europe, explained how.
What are La Martina's next projects?
The brand is focused on an overall revolution that will evolve through three main new projects–licenses, collaborations and digital evolution of the company.
What collaborations will you start?
In 2020 we will start collaborating with Pininfarina. When we were born in 1985 we had started co-branding operations when they didn't exist yet. Although they have become a widespread practice, we continue doing them as a collab can help matching two brands together in reaching a result that is not simply the summing up of the two factors but a new result that multiplies their values brought together. With Pininfarina we did a small collection inspired by the polo world, though played in most extreme conditions as it will debut on January 24, 2020, within a polo match played on St. Moritz iced lake. The capsule offers eight very essential high-performance pieces including apparel, accessories and footwear matching high expertise, elegant image and advanced technology.
Will you do more collaborations?
We want to involve a context of companies that wholly collaborate with us. Collabs are part of our brand and also important for the market, but, differently from others we would like to do them with our licensors and develop total looks that develop all different types of products where accessories play a key role.
What are your plans with your licensing partners?
Italian expert footwear manufacturer Giano is our licensing partner for our footwear collection since 2006. Starting from f/w 2020-21 we also signed a new partnership with Principe, producing and selling bags and small leather items for men and women including belts, wallets, bags and luggage for a total of about 200 pieces. Leather plays an important role despite the fact that many speak of eco and bio materials. Leather has no comparison with other materials in this field. As part of La Martina, leather accessories have to be characterized by maniac-like care for details. Through this agreement we will work with both more "static" markets like Europe and more dynamic ones as, for instance, Russia, Arabian and Asian countries at more different levels of distribution. Principe sells through over 2,000 stores, though it aims to work with about 300-400 doors worldwide for the first season. Part of the operation is also the opening of monobrand stores which can reach consumers directly and sell them leather goods and footwear and, when possible, also apparel but mostly folded items like polo shirts, especially in countries where the brand is not sold yet. In Asian markets what generally sells best are hats, shoes and polo shirts. In travel retail this is even more evident as you mostly find caps, bags and accessories and normally they play a strong role within a store’s offer. This step is very important as we want to expand in lifestyle by focusing on products that are timeless, seasonless and depend less on sizes.
How many of these stores will you open?
Already in 2020 we want to open at least three to four stores–not in Italy nor in Europe–but in countries which show great potential growth as they are looking for great, beautiful and well-done products though they are not sold there yet. We also want to grow through the digital channel, though our own website and the different online platforms. Our challenge today is based upon product, positioning, direct distribution and e-commerce.
Where will you present your new store concept?
A prototype of our accessory store will debut at Micam in February 2020. Our aim is to present all of our accessories in a single context. We will create an ideal shop-in-shop and will present it inside the store which will carry 50% footwear and 50% accessories. Through Giano, our footwear licensee, we will also participate in Premium this month–as we have been doing in recent seasons. Our footwear collection is very successful in Germany, a market that counts almost 40% of our sales and operates through top players we have been working with for a long time. Out of our Giano’s 500 store worldwide network about 70 doors (medium-high stores and specialized footwear stores) are in Germany. Our footwear is very well perceived in this market thanks to our made in Italy shoes, their good quality leather, aging and productive techniques based upon accurate craftsmanship. We are happy we have built a very high quality distribution model and we would like to also export it to other countries.
In which other countries is La Martina footwear selling best?
Italy and Spain work well. We are also registering great results in Middle East and have just started in Russia. Though Germany is our main market.
Don’t you fear that the accessory stores might become competitors of your other monobrand stores?
The new store concept will offer mostly accessories, though this is not a competition, it’s a collaboration. The start of our collaboration with Principe happens in a moment when our company is starting an evolution as our retail also needs to evolve. Our stores are recognized for a very rich and researched type of furniture which has to remain a distinguishing mark, but we are developing a different concept where decor is slightly less important. For this reason we are also preparing new store modules more dedicated to accessories. Physical stores are also facing an evolution as their function is changing due to the increased importance of the digital channel. They are gaining new importance as vehicles for brand experience, for hosting events or as places where it's possible to touch a piece of clothing. Stores will increasingly play the role of a showroom and always less of hosting a wardrobe full of products. The integration between physical and digital store will bring to life a new series of activities of always more fulfilling experiences.
Will any of the existing monobrand stores close?
We have always chosen strategic locations since day one. We want to work with two orders of stores–the ones in big metropolises that also host events, trade shows and similar happenings, but also in touristic destinations. And considering that the physical store has to give a different experience of what online shopping offers we think that rather than closings there will be, as, for instance, in Milan, also relocations. In Milan we recently tested a temporary store format that hosted presentations, tango and dance sessions, and artists’ presentations. Apart from relocations we also want to open new stores in key locations in China, Morocco, Egypt, Russia, former-USSR and Eastern Europe like, for instance, in Czech Republic.
How many of them do you aim to open?
We opened in Paris, St. Tropez, Dubai, Forte dei Marmi and London, alternating important capitals with key tourist destinations. That was always our very clear strategy. I expect to open about five new stores in 2020 which is a very reasonable forecast–in line with what we have been doing. Today we work with about 100 stores worldwide. Out of that total we follow 42 directly through our Swiss headquarters.
How will the collection evolve?
We will increase our product deliveries per year as–especially in our monobrands–it is always more important arousing curiosity to recall customers’ attention more often–no matter if they are brick-and-mortar or digital ones. Obviously, the digital aspect will also be involved in it and not only at consumer level, but also at B2B. As I can’t have buyers that come from Dubai eight times a year, some of their purchases will have to be done face-to-face, but others will have to be done remotely. To do so we have anticipated the production of digital content like videos, photos and storytelling tied to collections and divided our offer in capsule collections characterized by single themes, stories to tell but also iconic expensive products and more commercial ones. Each capsule will be created while keeping in mind a specific storytelling and a related video, though also helping monobrands’ work creating in-store visuals and shop windows. This will happen at all levels as our digital project is aimed at what the company owns–be them video, images, text, stories and physical platforms–and can be accessed and used by each one of our partners. Our licensees for accessories can use our platform for promoting the diffusion of their products through social networks, website and through online sales using a platform that is connected with the marketplace. The same happens with monobrand retailers. Offering content that can help promoting a product in-store or online where the published product is theirs. And also happens at wholesale level. Instead of calling a client to invite them to their showroom an agent can send them a 30-second WhatsApp video that includes a link showing the structure of the collection and through which they can already start doing an order online. It’s a total company’s evolution. It’s a language adopted at all levels as we want to conceive the company as a platform, an instrument at all of our partners’ disposal.
What objectives will this digital revolution lead you to?
We aim to increase our e-commerce sales by 20%. Our aim is to pick consumers where they are and make them happy. Though our aim is to also make our clients' life easier.