Asics deploys ambitious EMEA retail expansion plan
Sport brands are investing hugely in direct-to-consumer initiatives, as they focus on expanding their monobrand store networks, boosting their digital presence and finding the ideal omni-channel strategy. Direct-to-consumer is clearly the priority for Asics, as illustrated by its 2020 expansion plan for the EMEA region, recently disclosed by the Japanese group. A five-point strategy that will gear Asics up for the year 2020, when the group will be one of the partners of the Tokyo Olympic Games. The plan’s declared objectives are to "build closer relationships with clients, meet more effectively the expectations of key accounts, boost merchandising and digital marketing capabilities and exploit the opportunities afforded by emerging markets."
The start of 2017 hasn't actually been easy for Asics in the EMEA region: sales fell by 8% at constant exchange rates, despite a 4% rise in apparel sales, driven by an 11% increase in the running apparel segment. The new plan's deployment will be crucial in helping the group reshape its organisation, and will be bolstered by a new advertising message, 'I Move Me', which is heralded as the biggest overhaul in Asics' brand image since 1992. Asics' main focus has always been the wholesale channel, but now it wants to grow its direct-to-consumer business, which it expects to account for one quarter of the EMEA revenue within three years. The initial results are promising: sales in the group's directly owned stores in the first six months of 2017 were 15% higher than the previous year, as the new initiatives kicked in.
"2017 began softly, after we refocused the distribution strategy on our signature running models, said Alistair Cameron, the General Manager of Asics Europe. But deployment of the new strategy is already well on its way, leading to positive results for our stores and on emerging markets." »
Asics is clearly investing in its retail operations, and in a few months it has opened landmark stores in Berlin, Milan and Paris, and inaugurated a Regent Street flagship in London in the summer. The group currently operates 26 monobrand stores in the region, and is targeting 100 by 2020. The team led by Scott Wakefield, Asics' Retail Director Europe, is ready to expand the brand's footprint across leading European cities. The new strategy also involves growing the group’s e-tail revenue and pushing harder with multi-brand retailers, by establishing shop-in-shops. The first of them is due to open soon at the Citadium Caumartin department store in Paris.
At the same time, Asics has allocated more resources to Europe in order to strengthen its merchandising teams, especially those dedicated to running and lifestyle products. Digital marketing is another investment focus for Asics. The brand is keen to develop its own content and to have more control on its distribution, and has created a digital office in Boston, whose mission is to drive the group's global digital strategy and supervise the various subsidiaries' local initiatives. Specifically, Asics intends to better exploit and distribute its social media content, targeting influencers, the media in general and specifically the editorial teams of the sector's pure players.
Another key element of Asics' new plan is to improve the relationship and services it offers to key multi-brand accounts. This means the trade marketing teams will need to be reinforced, while the brand's new advertising slogan will gain extra exposure in-store. Asics' strategic evolution also necessitates a new approach to the supply chain. The group's European headquarters have already adopted SAP, and its subsidiaries will have to follow suit.
And while Asics is well established in Western Europe, it is also keen to expand further afield within the EMEA region: the group has set up a subsidiary in Russia, and opened offices in Dubai. Asics is convinced these markets have strong potential, as illustrated by the 26% sales increase in Russia in the first six months of 2017.
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