The head of French luxury label Longchamp outlines his ambitious plans to expand the blue-chip brand in China
For Jean Cassegrain, Longchamp is a way of life. As he looked back, some of his earliest memories were centered on the business founded by his grandfather in 1948.
Walking down memory lane, he recalled visits to the Longchamp workshops in western France and his grandmother's store on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
"There were family discussions about new ideas, and later trips with his father to exhibitions and trade fairs around the world," a profile supplied by the company stated.
Today, Cassegrain is the chief executive officer of the world-famous family-owned French fashion house in Paris. And he confessed that he never considered doing anything else.
With about 1,500 retail outlets and businesses in 80 countries, Longchamp is a global blue-chip brand with a wide range of luxury collections, including handbags, luggage, accessories, shoes and ready-to-wear clothing.
Annual sales for the group reached 566 million euros (3 million) in 2015, the latest financial figures the company released. This was an increase of 14 percent compared to 2014.
In China, local sales jumped by 30 percent during the same period, although the company did not release detailed numbers.
"We plan to open more stores in China to expand our presence," Cassegrain said. "The Chinese economy is growing, and more and more people want to buy luxury products."
Back in April, the company opened its flagship store in China at the Kerry Center in the heart of Shanghai. This marked an important milestone for the group.
"We are confident about Longchamp's prospects in China," he said.
In a far-reaching interview with China Daily, Cassegrain talked about the company's growth strategy, his management philosophy and his passion for skiing.
How do you assess the prospects of your business in China and its economy?
We still have a lot of potential for growth. So far, we have 18 stores in China, but there is potential for us to open more at new locations. There are still cities where we are not present and where we could consider opening an outlet.
In general, the Chinese economy is still growing, and there are more and more people here who have achieved a financial level where they can buy luxury European brands. I think for Longchamp there are a lot of opportunities. We will continue to grow in the years ahead.
What are your investment plans in China?
The new store we opened on Nanjing West Road of Shanghai is a big investment and a significant step for the brand.
In October, we will open a new store in Beijing at a landmark shopping mall on Wangfujing Street. We are considering opening stores in second-tier cities that we are not present in, such as Changsha, in the coming months.
Who are your target customers in China and how will you attract them?
I think our brand is unique and that means we will be able to reach a wide range of people. We are not a niche brand, so we don't focus on a specific category of client. Our customers in Europe can be teenagers, mothers, grandmothers or entire families.
It is difficult to pinpoint a precise category for our products. One of the reasons for our success is that we can sell to a large variety of people. The Longchamp range is very broad, with a lot of colors, shapes and price ranges.
How do we reach them? First, we open a store in the right location, to advertise our brand to the public. I think that is very important. Moreover, we have to use all the communication methods that we can, including newspapers, magazines and online channels, such as WeChat.