Connie Lai, Marchon’s Managing Director for the Asia Pacific region, talks about the company’s plans for expansion within the region, recent tie-ups and initiatives, and the values that have helped the company stay at the top of the game
Marchon has a portfolio of brands that are all winners in their own right. Through its extensive global network, the company reaches out to millions of customers who swear by the innovation and beauty that its eyewear offers to them. Not one to rest on its laurels, the company continues to expand its global network, with the most recent addition being a regional office in Singapore. Thanks to the thriving eyewear market, Marchon is expected to be one of the leading players in the region. VisionPlus speaks to Connie Lai, who is leading the new office, to learn more about this strategic move.
VisionPlus (VP): Our heartiest congratulations, Connie, on your appointment as Marchon’s Managing Director for the Asia Pacific region. Please share with us the highlights of your journey so far.
Connie Lai (CL): It has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience working with Marchon. As an American company, Marchon is truly multi-cultural with its effective system and decision making process and its ability to embrace the strengths of European design and product excellence.
VP: How do you think your experience from working with companies like Nestle and ECCO Shoes will add value to your current portfolio of brands?
CL: Nestle was my first job after graduating. It was here that I received the best training as a sales and marketing professional. My first 10 years of experience working in FMCG really brought out my skills in brand building within the sophisticated and competitive environment of this market. My FMCG experience was very valuable for the next stage of my career path in building consumer lifestyle brands such as ECCO and Puma. I enjoyed working with ECCO very much, since the company was fully integrated in branding, design, product development, manufacturing, distribution and retail. The exposure to all aspects equipped me with the knowledge necessary to help the development of Marchon within the Asian market.
VP: What new branding and marketing strategies will be implemented to promote Marchon in the Asia Pacific region?
CL: We will continue to leverage the equity of our license brands while giving the media direct and effective connection to consumers. Social media will also be a main focus for us, and riding on the success in the US market, we will explore the full potential of Marchon house brands including Dragon and Flexon.
VP: Marchon has established a new regional office in Singapore. What was the objective behind this move?
CL: Singapore is a local office for domestic business. The whole development is aligned with Marchon’s strategy in seeking direct penetration and presence in the market. Singapore strategically is the cosmopolitan city in South East Asia, thus an important platform for the region.
VP: Does Marchon give equal leverage to all its brands, or is there any particular brand(s) that you focus more on?
CL: All brands are important, but of course some brands have more relevance to Asian consumers.
VP: Which brands in Marchon’s portfolio tend do well in the South East Asian market? What may be the reason for it?
CL: Calvin Klein Collection was the first brand introduced in Asia since the establishment of our regional office in 1997, and it is very special to us. Nike and Lacoste have been growing rapidly with the fitness and active lifestyle trend in Asia. Also, Asian consumers have a strong preference for luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Chloé, which are having full potential to grow.
VP: Are there any new brands that Marchon is planning to add to its portfolio in the near future?
CL: Marchon Asia will be working closely with the Marchon international team to identify new brands. We are all very excited for the latest license agreement that was announced with Etro.
VP: Can you please elaborate more on the agreement with Etro?
CL: Marchon Asia will launch Etro according to the global launch plan. Alongside the global collection, Asian fit will be introduced for sun and optical, leveraging the brand design DNA. Etro has individualistic and independent vision and style. At the heart of the brand is the family’s tradition, to keep a balance between what is new and fashionable, with what is traditionally relevant. The brand vision aims to be experimental but grounded, modern but timeless. It’s a finely tuned balance, but it’s what makes the company special. Exclusivity and uniqueness are also very important to this concept, dedicating attention to quality, craftsmanship and impeccable detailing.
VP: What do you think differentiates Marchon and its products from the others in the industry?
CL: Marchon makes quality optical products with the best Asian fit. We always focus on service and customers through our dedicated employees.
VP: In the Asian market, where do you see more growth – in the luxury or fashion eyewear segment?
CL: Fashion should grow faster than luxury. With the increasing sophistication of consumers, eyewear is becoming more of a fashion accessory for interpretation of personal statement, than purely being functional. Branding will continue to be important.
VP: Is Marchon providing any optician training programme on how to sell or dispense eyewear in Asia? If yes, what are its benefits? If not, are there any plans in the pipeline?
CL: Marchon Asia provides training on the brand story, design DNA, features, and benefits to the customers. We also support customers with in-store POS and display to optimise visual merchandising in an effort to strengthen the connection with end consumers.
VP: What new initiatives have been planned by Marchon for the future?
CL: We shall continue to look for growth opportunities such as the development of house brands and set up of a new subsidiary or JV company. Apart from the optical channel, Marchon Asia will increase penetration into department stores, travel, retail and sport channel (for NIKE and Dragon).
VP: Thank you, Connie. We wish you and Marchon the best for all your new initiatives.