Market piracy, modular self-service stores, and shoeboxes with built-in entertainment systems are an integral part of Plein Sport’s disruptive retail experience. Just don’t call it a broadcast line.
Outside is a shiny black double-decker articulated truck. by Philipp Plein Swiss headquarters where the German businessman presents his strategic roadmap for Plein Sport, the sportswear brand he launched in January. And both are quite a journey.
about 50 plain sport Convenience stores worldwide are slated for 2023 and that total will double year-over-year for the next three. All in prime mall locations, under 100 square feet, 50% stock, 70% of which are sneakers, with shoe styles displayed in stacking systems accessed by consumers. Returns can be made through a mailbox.
The store fixtures are modular, so they can be replicated at scale for multiple locations. Business is all about volumes. This high-traffic, high-visibility, minimal-human resource approach makes it an extremely profitable model with a low break-even point, he says.
Ahead of the Q1 2023 launch of Plein Sport’s first static store in Madrid’s Plaza Norte 2, the Plein Sport retail hackathon begins with the aforementioned articulated mobile retail experience. After a test in Lugano, Switzerland, things will kick off at the end of December, when he will park up outside Atlético de Madrid’s (Plein sponsors the football club) Metropolitano Stadium in the Spanish capital before moving on to the next match.
In the future, the truck will be used to assess the feasibility of other shopping center locations before committing to a lease. He’s renting parking spaces outside of every possible spot for a month or so. “If business is good, I’ll open a store inside. I don’t want to burn my hands or my money. I’m not going to open a store before trying it on, any more than I’m going to put a sneaker on the market unless I’ve run four miles in it,” she says.
Which brings us to that all-important product. And while it’s not reinventing the wheel, Plein Sport taps into an undertapped area in terms of category and positioning.
The luxury fashion market is completely saturated with hundreds of brands vying for the top position, but sportswear is dominated by only a handful of principal actors he argues. The logic is simple but compelling.
“The active market is bigger than the luxury market, but it’s completely underdeveloped,” he continues, citing Nike’s turnover compared to LVMH’s combined luxury fashion output. In 2021, Nike’s revenue was $44.5 billion, while that of all luxury fashion brands in LVMH Group it came to approximately $32 billion. “It’s a great opportunity right in front of you, like the arrival of Columbus in the United States, there is so much land and no one has claimed it yet.”
And then there’s the pricing structure and positioning to consider. There’s only one price point on sneakers, she says, ranging from $50 to $250. “Anything fancier is intact.” The Plein Sport shoe ranges from $198 to $550 and is, as he puts it, “stylish.”
For example, the metallic embossed tiger head on the bottom of its best-selling Genx models. It cost about $0.5 million to develop, as there were eight molds for each of the 12 sizes.
This premium, experience-driven approach extends to the packaging. Made primarily from strong clear Perspex, the higher priced models come housed in solid black cardboard containers. Upon opening, a Plein Sport campaign film plays on an integrated miniature screen. The boxes cost him $12 and $20 respectively. “Nike’s are a matter of pennies.”
But while the aesthetic is maximalist in Philipp Plein’s DNA, its distinctive point of view setting it apart from the more conservative look of market competitors, both product and execution are inspired by reassuring performance with technical fabrics and suspension soles. , shock absorption and air injection.
Plein is frank and pragmatic. “I’m not Houdini, I can’t invent something that hasn’t been done before. I have a very competitive product that I put in different containers. We all cook with the same materials and no one owns the recipe or the ingredients, but I offer added value and emotion above all else.”
Plein first launched Plein Sport in 2017, but pulled it after a couple of seasons because there wasn’t enough differentiation from the Philipp Plein original and customers were starting to change their budgets. Second lines cannibalize a brand, he says, citing Emporio Armani plus closed-labels D&G and Versus as examples.
It emphasizes that the new Plein Sport brand is not a diffusion line. “It doesn’t compete with Philipp Plein, it completes it.”
He’s made a name for himself by being different: “I have to be different because we are a smaller niche independent brand, but I am a master at making my weaknesses my strengths. Because we’re independent, we can do things that other brands can’t.” Plein Sport excites him because it gives him the opportunity to build something from the ground up while he leverages the brand value he has created with Philipp Plein.
“I do it because I believe in it and then I make other people believe in it too.”