Lane Crawford: China’s Creative Retail Laboratory

To coincide with the launch of BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent, we speak to Andrew Keith, president of Lane Crawford, on what drives the company’s culture.

Andrew Keith of Lane Crawford | Source: Courtesy

HONG KONG, China — Walking into a Lane Crawford store feels like walking
 into the pages of a lifestyle magazine full of beautifully picked products. A Hong Kong institution from the earliest days of this great gateway to the East, the retailer — which today operates stores in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and online — is best known for setting global luxury industry standards with its bold product assortment, store concepts, compelling visual merchandising and exquisite print campaigns, all reflections of the group’s deep, internal commitment to creativity.

Indeed, each floor of Lane Crawford’s Hong Kong headquarters has its own lifestyle feel. With vintage furniture and gymnasium equipment, table tennis 
and Wii, and stunning 
visual merchandising from the company’s stores and billboard-sized campaigns lining the corridors, it’s a dynamic space where people are inspired to create.

Current president Andrew Keith explains why creativity is at the heart of Lane Crawford.

BoF: What makes Lane Crawford such a creative pioneer?

AK: We have a heritage of creativity and innovation; it’s part of our DNA. Lane Crawford has been constantly evolving and iterating for 164 years, so there is a legacy
 of pioneering through newness and new ways of working. We stand at the intersection of East and West, a dynamic crossroads of creativity and culture, with a truly multi-cultural team and because of our base we have always had to travel — to China, to international fashion capitals, and markets and workshops off the beaten track, so we are constantly hunting and gathering from every corner of the globe and encouraging contribution from creative thinkers around the world. We began supplying colonials, and now we are supplying the global consumers of the new China.

We work in an industry that is centred on and celebrates creativity in so many forms, from the design and creation of product to the styling of fashion shows and the galleries of Salone del Mobile. We are part of that creative ecosystem and we have a responsibility to take all of that creative energy, and not simply transport it, but add our own layer of creativity to ensure both our brand partners and our customers have the most exciting and emotionally compelling experience we can provide.

In order to do that, we put creativity at the heart of our organisation. We encourage every individual, regardless
 of their function or where they sit in the organisation, to be creative in the way they approach their job and how they interact with one another so that we can continue to bring the Lane Crawford magic alive.

BoF: How does Lane Crawford leverage its emphasis on creativity to drive the business?

AK: We don’t simply sell things.
 It’s about bringing the best product, exceptional personalised service and dynamic presentation together to create an experience. We don’t dictate to our customers; we encourage discovery. As a retailer, the product that we sell is available globally through all sorts of different distribution channels. What we do is bring that product alive, tell stories and connect with the community and our customer in a way that makes sense to them. 
Our buyers create our edit, our perspective on fashion and lifestyle. Our visual and creative teams are very important in creating the magic of our brand — we
 give them the freedom to express, and
 they are involved in planning our stores,
our customer engagement and our communications.

We marry creativity and commerciality and celebrate them equally in our business.

BoF: How does Lane Crawford nurture creativity in-house?

AK: We give our people the opportunity
 to actively participate in creating the future of retail.

We’re breaking down the traditional barriers that you have in retail organisational structures to create cross-functional work groups who are looking at our business 
from a holistic view because we’re driving
 a strategy of ‘connected commerce’
— a seamless experience between our physical and online stores. We encourage collaboration and we have organised ourselves physically to do this with an 
open plan workspace with breakout areas and chill out zones. Our group provides a wellness suite where you can go for yoga,
 get a massage and have a meditative gong bath. We also have a digital social business network called i-jam which connects all our staff from head office to stores in all markets and provides a platform for communication, collaboration and innovation. We have created an environment that is about encouraging and stimulating thinking, and where people feel happy and supported.

BoF: As China evolves, how does Lane Crawford plan to leverage its emphasis on creativity to tap new opportunities?

AK: I think creative innovation is where we see opportunity — primarily through our connected commerce omni-channel strategy. We are building a luxury lifestyle destination across all channels and significantly investing in digital technology and the content areas of our business to create that experience.

BoF: What other kind of talent are you looking for?

AK: We are looking for the retail leaders 
of tomorrow and we invest a huge 
amount of energy into bringing in
the most exciting, dynamic and diverse young thinkers in greater China and 
from around the world. We embrace diversity and we embrace youth — in fact,
 I believe we have some of the youngest decision makers and influencers in our industry. Increasingly, we’re looking for talent in related lifestyle areas such as food, music and art.

We educate, train and empower
 our people. We give them exposure to different markets and different segments
 of the industry. We support them through training at our Lane Crawford academy where we offer about 2,000 different courses on an annual basis and about 25,000 hours of training a year — that is everything
 from basic retail maths to clientelling
 and entrepreneurship.

We look for people who understand our vision; our perspective on fashion, lifestyle and retail; what we are trying to achieve; and how we execute excellence. Our talent may come from Beijing or Tokyo or LA or Paris or London, but our brand
 is reflected in how we put everyone and everything together.

This post is sponsored by Lane Crawford. To explore career opportunities at this company, please visit the Lane Crawford company page on BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.