Saint Laurent brand analysis

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Executive Summary

The particular report focuses on exploring Saint Laurent as a brand, with emphasis on some of the micro and macro environmental factors that could be impacting on the business. A SWOT analysis has been done with considerate strengths as well as limited weaknesses being identified. Particularly, the brand positions well in the market, differentiated as a classic luxury offering classic and timely products. However, macro environmental factors, including technology, legal as well as environmental factors all point to some of the external forces impeding its growth. For instance, inflation in the UK, technology innovations (bringing about too much competition through innovation) and environmental obligations all point to some of the inherent challenges. Competitor analysis reveals a broad range of competitors including Gucci and Luis Vuitton. From this exploration, the brand also scores well regarding marketing communication, especially using the competencies brought about by social media to interact with the customers. On the other hand, some recommended changes are necessary. For instance, the brand should not be marketed solely based on the YSL history. Besides, increased social media presence is necessary while at best, it is imperative to differentiate based on services because they are providing homogenous products with other companies producing superior designs.

Brand Introduction

Saint Laurent is among the Gucci Group companies that have been integrated into the YSL history or legacy and through the innovative collection, the legacy has been renewed (Senft, 2011). The brand positions as a luxury label that represents the French aesthetic. It also compliments the Gucci Group Brands, but its style is distinct in that it comes from the home fashion capital from the Italian Sergio Rossi, the Bottega Veneta, Gucci as well as the Stella McCartney (Senft, 2011). The brand focuses on providing both men and women’s clothes and fashion goods including fragrances, accessories, and other cosmetics. The brand has also expanded into providing other e-services or e-commerce site allowing its consumers to have a glimpse of the products being offered. The label operates in different countries, from Europe, USA, Asia, and the Middle East (Saint Laurent Paris, 2016).

Analysis of the Macro and Micro Environment Of The Brand

Consumer behaviour

In the clothing and fashion industry, external market or environmental factors like lifestyle, norms, cultures and demographics as well as population changes all affect Saint Laurent. Particularly, the company has to diverse its product portfolio to meet the needs of different markets. The brand has to adhere to the changing norms of the society and as such, align its products towards meeting such standards. All factors including age, generations, currency or fashion all affect the brand’s operations especially on the changing tastes and preferences of the market (Senft, 2011).

Technological Factors

Technological factors are microenvironmental elements affecting the industry, including resource availability and production capacity (Aspers and Godart, 2013). On the external environment, scarcity of materials like leather can force a company to focus its production towards selling more of faux products. New technological advancements by the competitors are also macro market factors, especially allowing for the production of new clothing styles and as such, a shift in demand (Kim et al., 2014). In this regard, Saint Laurent is forced to align its production activities towards matching the demands of the markets so that they products can meet the needs of the consumers.

Legal and Political factors

The macro environment is also characterised by legal and political factors. Particularly, Saint Laurent has to adhere to the worker rights and labour union issues. Supply chain management matters such as the respect towards human rights when hiring employees all affect the reputation of the company, especially how it sources for the raw material (Aspers and Godart, 2013).

Economic factors

Economic factors also affect Laurent. The economic boom situations or depreciation affect buyer purchasing powers. In this case, the company’s inventory management should be tailored towards responding to the current economic factors in the market (Kim et al., 2014). However, as of current, the company may be enjoying the stabilising economy after the recent depression.

Swot Analysis

Strengths

The major strengths of the company can be determined to exist in the areas of its financial as well as commercial success. Besides, the brand has a strong and continued design aesthetic portfolio. Especially, the extraordinary financial backing from Kering as well as benefiting the legacy of the famous brands like the YSL handbag and Classic piece all adds to its advantage in edging out the competitors (Saint Laurent Paris, 2016). Besides, the brand has an extended and long historical origin thereby being able to provide the luxury goods that meet the expectations of the consumers. The history of being attached to YSL brands adds an advantage, and as such, the brand is now relinquishing the benefits of the history of creating some of the iconic clothes pieces in history like the smoking jackets (Senft, 2011). The company is also careful not to expose its logo, and as such, the piece is integrated into the product such that it does not have an overwhelming impact.

Weaknesses

However, Saint Laurence is suffering the effects of logo dependency. The implication is that with this kind of approach, it is a perception among consumers that YSL would have used the logo to create a buzz around the products and services. Besides, the brand does not position well amidst the minds of the consumers, especially in average households in comparison to the major brands like Gucci or Louis Vuitton. The perceived reliance on history may not be a strength after all because even brands like Givenchy all came from France and as such, has a long history (10years) older in the retail clothing and apparel market in comparison to Saint Laurence (Senft, 2011).

Opportunities

There is a greater chance for the company to expand its operations in the Middle East especially with the prospects of retail market growth (Senft, 2011). Also, there are more opportunities in the Asian market, in particular with the ever growing number of middle class, especially billionaires. More opportunity is presented for reviving the vintage collection that has been all along associated with the vintage collection and as such, leverage this competence to provide classic appeals as well as depth designs in comparison to competitors.

Threats

The threat of competition is imminent with main industry players like Louis Vuitton and Gucci taking most of the market share (Saint Laurent Paris, 2016). The threat also emanates from companies producing chic over camp, especially with other designers like Jil Sander and Celine.

PESTE Analysis of UK Luxury and Fashion Market

Political Factors

As of currently, the major political factors affecting every business in the UK is the Brexit decision, with companies operating their subsidiaries being affected by the policies of carrying out businesses within the UK market. Tax policies like value added tax all affect the fashion industry players, as an implication on the spending power of the consumers. However, the UK is enjoying an increase in household income as a positive implication for consumer spending (Wu et al., 2015).

Economic factors

The UK is currently faced with a mixed reaction from the economic environment. Especially, there are mixed results as with regards to the GDP, high inflation rate, while at the same time, the country is yet to revive the unemployment rate. However, the UK, as at 2010, had indicated the signs of recovering from the recent recession (Robinson and Hsieh, 2016). In this regard, the revamping economy is providing growth opportunities for the companies while with the decreasing unemployment rate, the country has a strong buyer power

Social factors

Social factors concern how the brand segments its markets and the responsive prospects or how it meets the needs and expectations of the consumers (Aspers and Godart, 2013). Most of Saint Laurent’s products emphasise the higher income population as the target market. Particularly, the company makes a good use of the social identity theory in meeting the needs and expectations of the target market. More so, consumer trends, especially the generation Y is influencing the company’s product offering, and in return, the company has built its brand around this social image (Robinson and Hsieh, 2016).

Technology

Technology has transformed operations in the UK, especially with retail sales now focused on the online market. The presence of various mediums of communication including blogs, websites, and chat groups all have changed the way fashion, and luxury companies interact with their audience. Besides, e-commerce like the e-retailing trend is ever growing in the UK (Robinson and Hsieh, 2016). New technologies are fostering innovation in the fashion industry.

Environmental factors

The UK is one of the countries with a lot of emphasis on environmental consciousness and going green. The consumers are increasing buying more of the green products, and this implies that environmental consciousness is changing consumer behaviour as well as the obligation of companies (Okonkwo, 2016). Particularly, environmental targets are imperative for any business while on the other hand, they have to strike a balance between meeting the environmental obligations and addressing or fulfilling their business objectives.

Competitor Analysis

Saint Laurence seems to have an infinite number of competitors. For this analysis, the competitors are yet separated into the primary and direct competitors like the Gucci brands, conglomerate competitor brands like LVHM, and finally, the established fashion houses currently in the French’s retail clothing and fashion market.

From the major competitors, there is inherent competitive force emanating from major competitors like Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen as well as Gucci all acting as some of the established luxury fashion brands and labels. The main competitors have a wide variety of product offerings, all offering products under differentiated market prices. Also, all the major competitors are part of PPR as an implication that Saint Laurence needs to up its game regarding competitors to get more resources and outperform other major competitive forces like Gucci. The implication is that the wide variety of competitors points to the fact that Gucci currently sits in a market where its distinct labels do not allow for great market dominance since the labels are barely able to compete the strong brands of Gucci and other competitors.

Particularly, under Gucci Group, LVMH is currently ranking as the major competitor. The particular brand line has a wide variety of product offerings from a wide range of fashion and luxury companies including Celine, Luis Vuitton, Lowe, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Pucci, and Fendi. From the analysis, it is apparently evident that LVMH remains as the primary competitor of the company because it has a wide range of corporate resources. For instance, Luis Vuitton has entered the market with unique products, offering highly branded products while on the other hand, Celine has exuded Laurence concerning providing chic and timeless aesthetic luxury products.

Aside from LVMH and the Gucci Group, the company faces stiff competition from the many designers in the market, both aesthetic and historical perspective. Especially, there is the imminent competition from the American designers currently providing chic styles including Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren among others (Senft, 2011). On the other hand, the company is facing competition from the French market, including the fierce competition from Chanel, Lanvin, Dior and Balmain.

However, in spite of the inherent competition in the market, Saint Laurence boasts of several competitive advantages. For one, the company enjoys the financial backing by the mighty PPR group (Saint Laurent Paris, 2016). On the other hand, under the PPR, the company is currently facing limited competition from customers who value French unique, chic aesthetic style. Besides, the company enjoys the benefits of a storied past, presently kept by Stefano Pilati (Senft, 2011). The particular designer has been lauded as having a great respect for the Saint Laurent works. In this regard, the company’s competitive advantage has been provided by an artist whose inclination has been towards maintaining the legacy of the brand.

Position Strategy

Saint Laurent uses a differentiated position strategy to edge out competitors in the market. For one, it is being branded as “affordable” luxury fashion brand offering a broad range of products at reasonable prices (Saint Laurent Paris, 2016). Also, it differentiates as “ready-to-wear” thereby offering both men and women opportunities of acquiring ready to wear luxury and fashion products. The differentiated strategy also focuses on branding Saint Laurent as “classic and cool” (Senft, 2011). Notably, the brand focuses on providing iconic biker jackets and as such, being positioned as timeless and classic.

Marketing Communications Strategy

The company has a wide-range of marketing communications. Particularly, it has currently initiated the e-commerce prospects for communicating with the customers (Senft, 2011). In this case, it is evident that Saint Laurent adopts a modern and technology-based means of communicating the marketing messages. For instance, there are opportunities for the customers to connect with the brand and different products through the internet and all have been made possible because of the possibility of integrating the Internet capabilities into the marketing communication strategy. Saint Laurence has a wide presence in the social media, through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other even video streams like YouTube (Saint Laurent Paris, 2016). Besides, it carries out promotions as a means of communicating and engaging with the clients.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In conclusion, it is evident that Saint Laurent positions well as a brand that provides its consumers with cool and luxury fashion products. A major weakness is the absence and reliance on YSL history. Competition is also stiff but it has advantages of financial backing from PPR. Macro environment presents prospects for growth with technology and economic growth including expansion into other markets (Asia) set to improve its sales revenue. The brand is well positioned and as such, users recognizes it as a unique fashion retailer providing elegant products

However, few recommendations can help in cementing market position. For one, it is imperative to focus more on e-customer relationship management. The company has highly overrelied on the retail shows but with technology, more people are inclined towards online purchases. Therefore, increased presence in social media can help with marketing communication. Secondly, the company should not rely on the YSL history too much as there are other brands with unique and long histories as well. Thirdly, service differentiation is an imperative since the company operates within a market with homogenous products (Rothaermel, 2015). To edge out its competitors, service differentiation is an imperative.

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  1. Aspers, P. and Godart, F (2013), ‘Sociology of fashion: Order and change. Annual Review of Sociology, 39, pp.171-192.
  2. Kim, H., Ahn, S.K. and Forney, J.A (2014), ‘Shifting paradigms for fashion: From total to global to smart consumer experience’. Fashion and Textiles, 1(1), pp.1-16.
  3. Okonkwo, U., 2016 Luxury fashion branding: trends, tactics, techniques. London: Springer.
  4. Robinson, P.K. and Hsieh, L (2016) ‘Reshoring: a strategic renewal of luxury clothing supply chains.’ Operations Management Research, 9(3-4), pp.89-101.
  5. Rothaermel, F.T (2015) Strategic management.’ London: McGraw-Hill.
  6. Saint Laurent Paris (2016), Online Collection[Online], Available at< https://secure.ysl.com/countries/index> [Accessed 10 December 2016]
  7. Senft, A. (2011), YVES ST. LAURENT BRAND HISTORY[Online], Available at <http://www.fashionintime.org/yves-st-laurent-brand-history/> [Accessed 10 December 2016]
  8. Wu, M.S.S., Chen, C.H.S. and Nguyen, B (2015), ‘Luxury brand purchases and the extended self: a cross-cultural comparison of young female consumers in taiwan and the UK.’  Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, 7(3), pp.153-173.
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