Sustainability

Esprit prepares for a comeback in Asia with a renewed focus on sustainability

The retailer is counting on better-quality products and higher price points to grow its once-flailing business.
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· less than 3 min read

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Esprit, the Hong Kong-based clothing and accessories retailer, is on a mission to turn around its once-flailing business in Asia.

After shuttering its 56 outposts across the continent in 2020, the company is now giving the brand a facelift, shifting away from fast fashion and into sustainability, CEO William Pak told Bloomberg.

  • Esprit has already cut its fashion collection cycles from 12 to just four per year alongside limited-edition collections—a strategy that’s helped yield the company a net income of $48.5 million (HK$381 million) in 2021—its first profit in five years.

The magic question: Can it work? It depends on if the company can stick to a few ground rules—starting with a “high level of transparency with their manufacturing partners, almost to the extent of their pay, sitting side by side at the table, making decisions with their manufacturing partners on things surrounding sustainability,” Michael Prendergast, managing director at Alvarez & Marsal Consumer Retail Group, told Retail Brew.

  • He added that Esprit would also need to be upfront about the types of fabrics and chemicals in use alongside the labor practices across mills and factories. “No longer can you just ask the right questions, do an inspection with a factory, and then think that everything’s going to be okay,” he said. “You have to truly create very responsible partnerships with the vendors that you’re working with.”

Although the retailer opened a pop-up store in Seoul in April—with plans for another in Hong Kong next month—it will focus on e-comm, per Bloomberg. But as it forges its path to success, it’ll need to ensure sustainability remains a key part of its strategy. “Sustainability is no longer a ‘shiny object,’” Prendergast noted. “Sustainability has very quickly become a pillar of running a successful brand or retailer, really anywhere in the world, not just Asia.”—JS

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