Aigle, the French outdoor company, is moving resolutely toward the lifestyle business with the launch of expanded urban ranges. Technical outdoor products, which made up about half of the brand’s offerings in 2005, should represent only about 20 percent of apparel and 30 percent of footwear products offered by Aigle next year.

The changes will be implemented chiefly in France and Asia, where Aigle has most of its 207 mono-brand stores, providing it with sufficient space to display all its ranges. To help roll out the lifestyle products, Aigle intends to open another five stores annually for the next two years in France, where the brand makes about 40 percent of its sales. Such outlets could then make up about half of Aigle’s French turnover in three years, compared with 38 percent in 2007. On an international basis, mono-brand stores already accounted for more than half of Aigle’s consolidated sales of €135 million last year, due to their fast deployment in Asia.

The lifestyle drive was launched two years ago by Yves Mouriez, Aigle’s president, when he appointed a former designer of Paul Smith Jeanswear, Gideon Day, as Aigle’s artistic manager. The move is fully supported by Romain Guinier, the company’s managing director, who joined in February from LVMH, the luxury group. He will be fully in charge after the planned departure of Mouriez at the end of next year.

Wider lifestyle ranges were already introduced by Aigle in France this year and the move is apparently paying off, judging from a comparable sales increase of 9 percent in Aigle’s own French stores from February to May – much better than the market. However, sales were also aided by the fact that rain boots, Aigle’s original core products, are still very much in fashion, with bright and flowery patterns.

The new product and retail strategy will be introduced more gradually in other European countries, led by Germany, the U.K., Spain and Italy, where Aigle has subsidiaries but only four stores in all. The brand has only a few more stores in Portugal and Switzerland, which are managed from France. Alexander Hagen switched from the Pentland group in February as Aigle’s international sales manager to spread the word among the brand’s international partners and subsidiaries.

Like another French outdoor brand, Lafuma, Aigle suffered a lot a few years ago from the continued progress of Quechua, which led Décathlon to cut back its purchases from other outdoor brands. Aigle was subsequently acquired by Maus Frères, the big Swiss retailing group that controls Lacoste and owns the Athleticum chain of sporting goods stores. The development of mono-brand stores and of a wide range of fashionable lifestyle products have been a bonanza for Lacoste.

The emphasis new on lifestyle should enable Aigle to distinguish itself from other outdoor brands and from private labels such as Quechua or McKinley, the private label of Intersport in the sector. At the same time it should help the brand to balance sales in terms of seasons and genders. For the time being, in some countries, about 75 percent of Aigle’s sales take place in the winter. In Europe, women’s products make up only 30 percent of sales, against 60 percent for men and 10 for children, but Aigle hopes to reach roughly equal sales for men and women within three years.