A fiercely independent family company with nearly €600 million in turnover and 70% of production exported. A brand of handbags and accessories that for years has been the best known brand in France and a very strong bond with Italy in terms of taste, style and business model. And yet, until five years ago, Longchamp – founded in Paris in 1948 – had a presence in our country that was still much less pervasive than in other European markets, although it’s profile has risen over the past decades.
“When, in 2011, the Cassegrain family proposed to me that I open an Italian branch and laid out their goals and ambitions, I though that it would be a difficult but not impossible challenge,” said Paola Patrone, country manager for Longchamp outlet Italy. “The seriousness of the project was clear, as was the availability to make key investments right from the start, despite the fact that only five years before we had been in a full-blown economic crisis of consumption. So I accepted and today I think that we are already at a good point with respect to the goals that the founders/owners, and myself as well, want to reach.”
Definitive 2016 financial data aren’t out yet, but in 2015 Longchamp revenue rose 14% to €56 million. There’s likely to be an additional increase for the year just ended, which will bring revenue close to the €600 million mark.
“In 2011, Longchamp was only present in Italy in some multi-brand stores with few products besides handbags. Today, we have six boutiques in Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice, Genoa and Portofino, all in prestigious locations, alongside luxury brands, and we are in about 100 other high-end locations,” Patrone said. “We have been growing uninterruptedly for five years and in 2016 revenue rose by 8.3%. A this point, Italy is one of the major European markets for the brand.”
But our country is also important from a strategic perspective. “The handbags and accessories, which will always be Longchamp’s core business, are made in France, where we have six factories. But that’s not the case for the two categories introduced to give the brand more global breadth (it’s currently present in 80 countries). Pret-à-porter, which we show twice a year in Paris during Fashion Week, is all made in Italy, and our shoes are 90% made in Italy,” she says.
The boutiques are an important way to introduce our Longchamp outlet online brand to foreigners: Italian customers make up about half of business, the rest are tourists from around the world.” Longchamp’s best-seller is Le Pliage, the foldable nylon bag launched in 1993 and available in leather since 2012.
“Over time, we created Le Pliage bags in every color and size, working with artist like Jeremy Scott,” recalls Patrone. The price (which starts from €80) makes it an excellent way to enter the Longchamp world. But we are perceived as a true luxury brand and with a strong skill in workmanship and the choice of material. It’s no coincidence that the best-sellers in our clothing line are leather jackets and pants. Longchamp also offers handbags that can cost thousands of euros depending on the size and material,” she said.
Being able to set the starting price at €80 is one of the advantages of being independent and owned by a very united family. Of not having outside pressure and being forced to drive up margins and revenues. “For the Cassagrain, the important thing is to grow in a healthy way, maintaining intact the price-quality ratio,” she concluded.