Esteemed cognac house Rémy Martin chose Harrods—probably the world’s most famous department store—to be the first location for the launch of a strategically important new boutique design for its ultimate creation: Louis XIII Cognac. And it delivered an £80,000 ($95,000) sale within the first few days.
The store had an official opening on July 6, but during the soft launch the sale of a Mathusalem (a six-liter bottle), of which there are just 50 produced annually, was a signal that spending at the Knightsbridge store might tick along quite nicely through the summer. Louis XIII is considered a luxury icon—and pretty much untouchable among cognacs. It is why the cheapest product in the Harrods boutique retails for £700 ($830)—and that will only get you a 5cl miniature, the equivalent of a (hugely expensive) double.
In favor of the Grande Champagne cognac’s price positioning is the fact that demand for highly-crafted and sought-after products like Louis XIII remains unabated. When releasing its full-year results for the financial year 2021-22, parent company, Rémy Cointreau Group posted record sales of €1.3 billion, up about 30% on 2019-20, with the biggest component, the cognac business, delivering a staggering 59% increase in operating profit versus two years ago.
In a June statement, the company said there has been “a growing contribution from high-end and mid-range products and (from) price increases” with “out-performance” in pricier segments. Louis XIII Cognac would be considered beyond high-end, acting as a flagship for the group and one reason why so much effort has gone into the Harrods boutique.
A nod to the future
The new look—with a swirled ceiling, organic contours and subtle lighting—is a long way from any notion of a gentleman’s club or the formality that might have been associated with drinking cognac in the past. Instead, the modern design targets younger generations, while the core-range liquid in its distinctive mouth-blown crystal decanters remains resolutely unchanged. It is made from as many as 1,200 decades old eaux de vie that, led by cellar master Baptiste Loiseau, are expertly blended for a taste experience that is one-of-a-kind.
The Louis XIII boutique is located on the lower ground floor of Harrods, adjacent to the wine and spirits rooms. French architecture firm RDAI
In some clever marketing, time has been harnessed as “the ultimate raw material” of Louis XIII Cognac, founded in 1874 almost 150 years ago. Time and the future have been fused in projects that include a film by John Malkovich and a song by Pharrell Williams, that will only be released in 2115 and 2117 respectively, a century after they were created. Both have given the brand a lot of media exposure.
Digital content, limited editions and robots
The Harrods space draws inspiration from both the art deco and art nouveau movements while evoking natural shapes to achieve a sense of ease. Leonardo Ferracina, global executive director at Louis XIII commented: “This boutique is modern and sensual. It creates an environment of discovery. Elements of our patrimony, engaging stories and digital content will bring the vineyards and distilleries of the Grande Champagne region of Cognac to life at Harrods.”
The boutique showcases the history, craftsmanship and terroir of the brand, as well as an array of exclusive products and services. Among them are limited editions, rare casks, and large formats, plus gift coffrets that can be customized as well as a full range of accessories—all available only at Harrods in the U.K. retail market. Crystal engraving services complete the experience.
Louis XIII is also showcasing an eye-catching, large-scale industrial robot pop-up called Toast Master on the fifth floor until the end of July. It features two robotic arms, each clasping a glass of Louis XIII Cognac and choreographed in time to a musical composition by Yaron Herman entitled One Note Prelude. The finale is a clinking of glasses to reveal the G-sharp sound made by the crystal stemware.
Making the link between modern technology, the creative arts and Louis XIII Cognac in this way is how the brand is making itself relevant to a new generation, while retaining existing clientele. The revamped boutiques—of which there is one in the town of Cognac, France, and six in China, plus Harrods—will be key to this process.
Retail on the rise
Louis XIII director for UK & Ireland at Rémy Cointreau, Morgan de Prémorel told Forbes.com: “We want to keep extending our retail network and the U.S. is a priority market. Our target is the global shopper and we chose Harrods for the first boutique because it is known throughout the world from Singapore to Los Angeles. About 70% of customers typically come from abroad. Millennials [aged roughly between 22 and 40] are setting the trends in the world today. They are the rising generation.”
Louis XIII buyers at Harrods are split fairly equally between American, British and Asian shoppers, with another 10% coming from primarily Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In places like China, where Louis XIII has a strong following, research suggests that the younger end of the Millennial age band and Gen Z will be fueling luxury sales. They are also indulging in the trend for ‘less but better’ when it comes to spirits, which favors luxury groups like Rémy Cointreau and Hennessy (LVMH). “Toastmaster is a new way to engage with younger generations,” de Prémorel added.
In October, watch out for a new global launch from Louis XIII that will further address younger shoppers and a female audience in particular, a part of the population that cognac houses have yet to properly bring onboard. The product has beeen described as “a new era” for Louis XIII Cognac with themes of travel, time and nomadism, and there will be specific retail focus on the U.S. and China markets.