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The international success story of La Martina, Argentina’s only luxury brand

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Mr Lando Simonetti, CEO of La Martina, premium brand based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has seen tremendous growth worlwide, despite turbulent economic environments both at home and abroad.

La Martina is a relatively  young brand, having been founded in 1986. What inspired you to create the brand? Did you have in mind, from the beginning, a positioning of your  brand?

THE BRAND IS YOUNG INDEED BUT THE VERY STRONG HORSEMANSHIP AND THE LEADERSHIP IN THE SPORT OF POLO PLAYED IN ARGENTINA GOES WAY BACK SINCE THE EARLY 1924 AND 1936 WHEN ARGENTINA WON THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN PARIS AND BERLIN. AFTER SPENDING MOST OF MY PROFESSIONAL CAREER WORKING IN USA FOR AN INTERNATIONAL DENIM BRAND I LEARNED THAT IF YOU ARE IN THE BRAND BUSINESS WHATEVER YOU DO HAS TO BE AUTHENTIC AND HAS TO HAVE A STRONG SOLE OR DNA, THAT´S WHY SPENDING MY CHILHOOD IN ARGENTINA I WAS HIGHLY MOTIVATED WITH THIS AUTHENTIC SPORT AND HOW IS HAS DEVELOPED FROM ARGENTINA OUT TO THE WORLD. IN THE EARLY 80´S I READ A LOT ABOUT SPORTS BRANDS AND HOW IN THE YEARS TO COME THEY WOULD AFFECT OUR EVERYDAY LIFESTYLE, SO I STARTED TO  CONCIEVE LA MARTINA AS “THE” BRAND FOR THE SPORT OF POLO WHICH AT THE TIME THERE WAS NO OTHER.

TO POSITION A BRAND YOU MOSTLY NEED TIME AND A CLEAR FOCUS OF THE DNA AND WHAT THE BRAND WOULD REPRESENT, WE INDEED HAVE THAT VERY CLEAR SO FROM THE VERY BEGINNING UP TO DATE IT HAS ALL BEEN ABOUT POSITIONING THE BRAND AND AS CONSEQUENCE WE SELL POLO EQUIPMENT AND A CLOTHING PRODUCTS INSPIRED IN THE SPORT.

How do you perceive the La Martina brand – luxury, affordable luxury, premium or high end? Why? Which do you consider as your competitive set? (direct competitors)

I WOULD LIKE TO ANSWER FIRST THAT THE SPORT OF POLO IS CONSIDERED A LUXURY SPORT, NOT ONLY BECAUSE YOU NEED TIME AND MONEY TO SPARE BUT ALSO PASSION AND DEVOTION FOR LIFESTYLE. THESE CORE VALUES ARE EMBOSSED AS BRAND ASSESTS IN HAVING THE BEST HAND CRAFTED LEATHER PRODUCTS FOR TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT WE CAN OBTAIN AT THE AFFORDABLE PRICE TO PLAY EVERYDAY.

SO OUR APPROACH FOR THE TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT AS TO OUR CLOTHING LINES WE CONSIDER IT TO BE AFFORDABLE LUXURY.

IN OUR CLOTHING, ACCESSORIES AND LEATHER LINES WE HAVE PREMIUM PRICES AND DIRECT COMPETITORS ON OUR PRICE POINTS PREDICATED UPON DIFFERENT MARKET PLACES.

ON OUR TEXTIL LINES WE HAVE CREATED A WHOLE NEW SEGMENT IN OUR FIRST GENERATION OF “POLO SHIRTS” AND ATTIRE INSPIRED ON MORE THAN 100 POLO EVENTS WE ATTEND AROUND THE WORLD EVERY YEAR, SO WE BELIEVE HAVE NO DIRECT COMPETITOR IN THAT SEGMENT ALSO CONSIDERING MOST LUXURY BRANDS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED OR NATURAL SPONSORS FOR POLO.

ON OUR MORE CASUAL LINES FOR MEN´S AND WOMEN´S WE HAVE MORE COMPETITIVE PRICE POINTS AND HAVE BENCHMARKS WITH PREMIUM BRANDS OF OUR SEGMENT.

La Martina’s DNA is quintessentially associated with polo. How dependant are you on the  development and awareness of polo internationally?

AS STATED MOSTLY ABOVE OUR BRAND IS ALL ABOUT POLO, 100% AND 360 DEGREES, WE HAVE CREATED ASIDE OF LA MARTINA A SPORTS AGENCY COMPANY NAMED POLO MANAGEMENT GROUP, SPECIALLY DEDICTAED TO THE PROMOTION OF THE SPORT AROUND THE GLOBE. WE CREATE AWARENESS AND CONTENT WITH PMG AND POSITION THE LA MARTINA  BRAND THROUGHOUT THIS DEVELOPMENT.

As your product line has been expanding, do you consider other associations, for instance, with film or music celebrities who are polo fans?

AS WE KNOW THE SPORT IS VERY NICHE AND A SMALL COMMUNITY, CREATING ASSOCIATIONS WITH CELEBRITIES WOULD DEFINETLY WIDEN THE BASE FOR POLO AWARENESS. ONCE ENTHUSIASTS AND SPECTATORS ENJOY AND GET INSPIRED OF THE LIFESTYLE OF THE SPORT THEY WILL BE MORE KNOWLEDGABLE AND COME CLOSER TO OUR BRAND.

You take pride in the quality and design of your products. In today’s world with so many competitive pressures and economic instability, how do you ensure the highest quality for your products?

MOSTLY BRINGING THE BEST TALENT OF HAND MADE CRAFTMANSHIP IN HOUSE, WE DIRECTLY EMPLOY NOT ONLY DESIGN AND PRODUCT MANAGEMENT TEAMS BUT ALSO A STAFF TO STRICKLY CONTROL OUR SOURCING. JOINT VENTURES WITH FACTORIES AND HAVING STARTEGIC SOURCING PLANS FROM ORIGINS TO  DIFFERENT MARKET PLACES ENSURES MOST OF OUR CONTROL OVER ECONOMICAL INSTABILITY.

Where do you  make your products? What is your creative approach?

WE PRODUCE HI-TECH POLO EQUIPMENT IN ARGENTINA AND CLOTHING IS PRODUCED IN DIFFERENT EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ALONG WITH SOME AMERICAN COUNTRIES AS WELL ASIA.

Your brand is  widely present in department stores and multi-brand stores around the  world, possibly in countries where polo has very little or no awareness.  Do you see this as a challenge, opportunity or danger for the awareness and recognition of your brand?

WE SEE THE NEED THAT WHATEVER DISTRIBUTION CHANEL WE CHOOSE HAS TO HAVE THE BASIC IDENTITY TO REFLECT OUR CORE VALUES FOR THE BRAND, THIS IS WHY ALL OUR VISUAL MERCHANDISING AND PRODUCT PLACEMENT IS INTEGRATED. WHERE POLO IS HIGHLY VISIBLE WE SYNERGIZE THIS EFFECT WITH LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS THROUGHOUT CLUBS AND EVENTS. WHERE POLO IS NOT KNOWN WE HAVE STRATEGIES TO POSITION THE BRAND WITH OUR FIRST GENERATION OF POLO RELATED PRODUCTS SUCH AS WORLD POLO CHAMPIONSHIP MERCHANDISING. ANYONE NOT KNOWING POLO COULD HAVE A DESIRE FOR NICELY DESIGNED POLO INSPIRED GARMENTS ALSO WITH ADDED VALUE AS TO WELL KNOWN COBRANDED NAMES IN THESE PIECES.

What is your expansion model for mono-brand stores? Please give us your opinion of  franchising versus directly operated stores. Which are your priority international markets in terms of expansion?

OUR EXPANSION MODEL IS GOING MORE TOWORDS RETAIL VERSUS WHOLESALE, HAVING SAID THIS EVERY COUNTRY HAS DIFFERENT APPROACHES, WE CURRENTLY HAVE FRANCHISEE BUSINESS MODELS IN AMERICA AND EUROPE ALSO DIRECT RETAIL THROUGHOUT INTERCOMPANY BRANCHES. WHATEVER DESITION IS MADE IN THE MARKET OUR PRINCIPAL OBJECTIVE IS MORE CONTROL OVER BRAND COMMUNICATION.

OUR NEXT BIG PRIORITY IS ASIA AND WE WILL CHOOSE COMPITENT PROFESSIONAL RETAIL GROUPS THAT CAN TAKE OVER VARIOUS COUNTIRES AS TERRITORIES.

La Martina does not have any mono-brand stores in Asia, despite the growing number of  polo competitions in several countries. What is your strategic approach to this region?

WE ARE EXPANDING NOW IN SOUTH EAST ASIA REGION WHERE POLO IN VERY DEEP IN THE CULTURE, COUNTRIES SUCH AS MALAYSIA, THAILAND AND SINGAPORE ARE EXPAMPLES. WE HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN TO COVER MOST OF THESE COUNTRIES AND HAVE GONE AGGRESSIVE WITH POLO MANAGEMENT GROUP WITH THE RISE OF THE SPORT IN CHINA MAINLAND.

Outside Argentina, which are the top  three most successful markets in terms of sales and brand awareness?

DEFINTELY IN EUROPE ( GERMANY , ITALY , FRANCE, SPAIN, UK) AND IN AMERICA (USA, BRAZIL,CHILE MEXICO,COLOMBIA

Several international luxury brands are considering closing down their stores in  Argentina due to the economic climate. What is your view? Has your company been affected (if in any way), by the economic turmoil in the country?

WE HAVE FELT THE SLOWDOWN IN TERMS SALES BAECUASE  TOURSIST NOT COMING DOWN AS IN THE PAST 4 YEARS, THIS HAS AFFECTED OUR RETAIL STORES ORIENTATED TO TOURISTS, THE FACT THAT MAJOR LUXURY BRANDS ARE LEAVING THE COUNTRY IS BAD BECAUSE IT LEAVES LESS COMPETITION AND BENCHMARKS  BUT AT THE SAME TIME CREATES OPPORTUNITIES FOR MORE MARKETSHARE IN OUR SEGMENT WE ARE CAPITALIZING.

An increasing number of luxury brands have been embracing digital platforms as a means of communications. What is your approach in this respect?

WE HAVE BEEN IN B2B RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH ONLINE PLATFORMS AND ECOMMERCE SINCE 1997 SERVING THE INTERNATIONAL POLO COMMUNITY WITH CUSTOMIZED EQUIPMENT. WE HAVE A LARGE DATABASE , BUT REGARDLESS OF THE FACT THAT OVER 90% OF OUR CUSTOMERS OVER THE WORLD DOES NOT CONSUME THESE PRODUCTS WE HAVE BEEN JUST NOW FACING ANALYSIS FOR CREATING ACCESSORIES AND TEXTIL ONLINE SALES ALSO RELATING OUR BRAND THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS.

How has your online store been performing and what are your future expectations? (percentage of your sales)

WE HAVE NOT STARTED YET AND ARE A BIT BACK IN OUR PLANS, BUT THE IDEA IS TO LAUNCH 2014 AND WE EXPECT TO HAVING OVER 35% OF THE TOTAL TURNOVER OF THE COMPANY THROUGH THIS CHANEL.

 

Lando Simonetti, President CEO, La Martina

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