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Moët Hennessy CEO talks about luxury selling in Kenya

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Moët Hennessy CEO talks about luxury selling in Kenya

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Moët Hennessy CEO talks about luxury selling in Kenya


Philippe Schaus, CEO of Moët Hennessy during the interview at Villa Rosa Kempinski on June 4, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

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  • Beverage maker Moët Hennessy sees Kenya as a “very important market to penetrate.”
  • He predicts a good future in the Kenyan market, as more consumers become sophisticated drinkers and therefore switch and spend more on higher quality alcohol.

Beverage maker Moët Hennessy sees Kenya as a “very important market to penetrate, to get in touch with its consumers,” because what Kenyan buyers do will influence other Africans.

Philippe Schaus, CEO of Moët Hennessy, a unit that is part of Paris-based Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), spoke with BDLife at Villa Rosa Kempinski on Friday last week. He talks about telecommuting and why CEOs have to travel to physically meet employees.

“As CEO, it is very important to stay in touch with the markets,” he told BDLife during a tour of Kenya.

“Back in Paris, I make decisions and I cannot make decisions unless I spend a reasonable amount of time in different markets to gain knowledge and intuition about what is right and what is not.”

He predicts a good future in the Kenyan market, as more consumers become sophisticated drinkers and therefore switch and spend more on higher quality alcohol. Mr. Schaus joined LVMH five years ago and has been in the luxury industry for 18 years.

I am excited about the African luxury market. Because Africa, including Kenya, has been developing. There has been a growing sophistication of the upper middle class. And with sophistication comes the desire for the finer things in life, luxury, whose products are made with the utmost perfection, by a company that has been doing it for many years.

When I compare Kenya with other African countries. I find it competitive in many ways. It serves as a hub in the region, therefore it is a very important market for us to penetrate, to get in touch with consumers because what they are going to do will influence other Africans. Kenyans’ sophistication, infrastructure and business opportunities are improving. There are better restaurants and bars hence growth for wines and spirits.

I also like to think that as people get more sophisticated, they tend to consume less alcohol but better. So, they go more for quality than quantity. This favors Moët Hennessy because our drinks are limited in quantity. For example, we cannot produce as much as we want because the champagne is made from the best grapes selected from specific plots in the Champagne region. By design, our champagne is therefore limited.

I have been in the luxury industry since 2003 and have learned …

That at the heart of every successful luxury brand there must be a fantastic product; be it a bag made with the best leather and the best craftsmanship, or be it wines or liqueurs made with the best grapes in the best winery, with the greatest care. There is no luxury without an exceptional product.

I have also learned that a luxury product must evolve. Therefore, it is necessary to constantly seek the balance between tradition and craftsmanship.

In 100 years, I imagine the company will be …

Moët Hennessy has a very long-term perspective. Today, as we speak, we are putting spirits into cellar kegs that will be consumed for years to come.

We have a different relationship with time. For example, Dom Pérignon has to be in the cellar for at least 10 years so that we can take it out and sell it. So, I already know today how many Dom Pérignons I will sell in the next 10 years, because I will only sell the bottles that I already have in the cellar. We cannot produce one more bottle than we have.

As CEO of a leading company like Moët Hennessy, his mission is to ensure that future generations can continue to do what past generations were doing.

In 50 or 100 years, no one will remember who the CEO of Moët Hennessy was in 2021. But they will continue to run a wonderful company and enjoy wonderful products. There will be consumers enjoying a product that is in the warehouse now, and that is our goal.

Yes, I am aware that there is competition, brands are emerging every other day. Of course, whatever someone puts in his glass is in competition with something else that he could have put in his glass. So the competition is there, but our strength is that we are wonderful wine and cognac producers.

Last year was tough for everyone. With Covid-19, came the closures and the closure of bars, restaurants and nightlife. In the first phase, alcohol sales fell considerably. In the second phase, there was a progressive reopening.

But in addition, people began to consume more at home and that is why sales for domestic consumption increased, part of this through traditional stores. And new to our wine and spirits category is e-commerce. It became significant. That came as a surprise to all of us because, quite frankly, we had always seen that the wine and spirits category was somehow not involved in the evolution of e-commerce.

This year is very good. We are recovering what we lost last year. We are more than back to our 2019 levels.

The Covid-19 pandemic taught me many things as CEO. One of them is that a lot can be done through remote work. We had no choice but to get used to Zoom, Teams, and other platforms to work with.

The second lesson was that after a while, we began to realize what we were missing; see people physically, visit different markets, see our products in action. That meant that we had more and more situations where there was a loss of translation between strategy and execution. Now that we have traveled again, we are very happy.

There are many things that we can do through remote work that we imagine, but I don’t think you can run a company, or be in a business without physically meeting people. I think it is essential that you travel and meet people.

In my favorite drink …

It’s hard for me to tell you what my favorite drink is. Because there is no drink. There are different times of the day when there are different things that one imagines.

My favorite indulgence …

It would surprise you. I like to walk. The greatest luxury I can get is to climb a mountain for five, six or seven hours, in silence. Looking at the forest, trees, sometimes animals. I cannot do it as often as I wish, therefore it is my greatest luxury.

My daughter, who is here, promised me a hike. That will be the most luxurious part of this trip.

Speaking of nature, Hennessy is on a mission to plant trees. He has committed to replanting trees on 50,000 hectares around the world. There is a small part of these, 400 hectares, to be planted in Mount Kenya in association with Trees for Kenya, a non-profit organization.

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