Sports and sailing apparel brands Henri-Lloyd says it is “cutting out the middlemen” as it rolls out a new ecommerce platform and ramps up its direct to consumer (D2C) offering.
In a radical shake up, the retailer has ditched its wholesale relationships and is concentrating purely on selling directly to consumers, driven by a new ecommerce platform that taps into the growing move to online shopping by consumers.
The retailer, which as six UK stores, is working with Centra on a new headless ecommerce platform, which will form the centrepiece of its shift away from third-party sellers and into online D2C.
The shift comes as the company says it wants to “cut out the middle men that inflate prices”. By way of example, it says that items such as its award-winning Innovation of the Year Freemantle Hooded Jacket will retail for £399 compared to a traditional RRP of £690, while the 100% recycled Mav HL Mid Jacket, modelled by the most successful Olympic sailor in the world, Sir Ben Ainslie, will be available for £85, instead of £135 RRP.
The move is driven directly by the changing shopping habits during the pandemic, prompting the company to not only ramp up its ecommerce, but to make that its primary sales channel. Chairman and main shareholder, Hans Eckerström, comments: “I find it very exciting to change the way we do business to the benefit of every sailor, boat owner and user of Henri-Lloyd gear. We can now offer premium products at very attractive prices. I am sure that this is the future using the bene- fit of online marketing and sales to drive value to all customers”.
Launched in March 2020, the agility and scalability of the new D2C model quickly became apparent as lockdown created the perfect storm for innovation across the business. With the furlough scheme not in place in Poland, where one of Henri Lloyd’s main production factories is located, the decision was made to utilise the brand’s technical expertise to produce protective face coverings.
To support the rapidly changing requirements of customers as lockdown conditions shifted, demand for lifestyle products soared as the need for sailing apparel reduced, marketing budget was reallocated to focus around paid social and Google ads as the brands marketing strategy was refocused as Graham Allen, Head of Sales Marketing at Henri Lloyd, explains.
“Covid-19 created a situation that made us very innovative as a team and coupled with an explosion of business during the lockdown has pushed us to further hone our customer relationships. Operating as a pure DTC brand we have embedded a new level of responsiveness into the business. We have shifted our strategy to focus on what our customers want and need from us on a daily basis and so grow the emotional connection with them.”
Supporting this strategy is the Henri Lloyd Racing Club, launched in August, which allows the brand to own relationships with professional and weekend warrior sailing crews by providing the latest performance kit, priority access to product releases and access to competitions and experiences. In just six weeks the initiative has already meet its initial membership target.
It’s digital-first approach, coupled with an international business structure, has positioned Henri Lloyd well to face meet the ongoing trading challenges created by Covid-19 and Brexit.
“Digital transformation sits at the heart of our long-term growth strategy, so it was imperative we had the right infrastructure in place to support us, both now and in the future. The Centra team has worked collaboratively with us at every stage of the project, consulting on best practice and quickly and efficiently managing any complexities that have arisen,” says Allen.
Centra works with a range of niche brands including Nudie Jeans, Snadqvist and DoucheBags and specialises in offering slick, headless D2C commerce platforms.
Martin Jensen, CEO of, Centra comments: “The retail industry has transformed rapidly and we are delighted Centra, the only ecommerce platform entirely focused on fashion and lifestyle brands, has allowed Henri Lloyd to rapidly develop a global, online operation at a time when delivering a frictionless, customer-first experience is more critical to business success, and indeed survival, than ever.”
“By using the Centra platform, Henri Lloyd now has a scalable and future-proof solution that can support the business’ expansion plans, whilst ensuring customer experience is upheld at each touchpoint,” he concludes.