Lacoste challenges Levi, Lee in India

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BOMBAY -- French leisure apparel maker Lacoste next month enters India's competitive $30 million, branded denim jeans segment. Lacoste licensee for India, Sports and Leisure Apparel, will invest $1.5 million to finance this ambitious expansion in a market that is overshadowed by counterfeited copies of Levi's, Lee and Wrangler jeans.

Targeting the status-conscious, upper middle-class Indian, Lacoste so far has introduced products including shirts and trousers. An intentionally low profile still garnered the marketer's license first- year sales of $3.6 million in the year to March 1997.

The local jeans segment burgeoned in size when U.S. apparel marketers VF Corp.'s H.D. Lee & Co. and Levi Strauss & Co. entered in April and May of 1995 respectively with their denimwear line.

But Bangalore-based Levi Strauss (India's) initial insistence on exclusive Original Levi Stores, a costlier product and a slower marketing push has cost it dear in terms of market share. Currently sold in 45 stores, 25 of them Original Levi Stores, the brand has a 20% market share.

McCann-Erickson India, Bangalore, handles Levi's and Trikaya Grey Advertising, also Bangalore, has the Lee account.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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