Esprit looks to take premium retailing in India to the next level

MUMBAI: An international youthful lifestyle brand offering smart luxury and bringing newness and style to life!

Premium clothing brand Esprit is looking to tap the growing premium apparel wear segment in India. It has launched stores in Mumbai and Bangalore. For this purpose it has tied up with Madura Garments as its partner.



Madura Garments is looking to strengthen its brand portfolio in the women?s segment the premium relaxed clothes segment and accessories. Madura Garments also has deals with international brands like Peter England, Louis Phillipe and Van Huesen. Talking on the occasion Madura Garments president Hemchandra Javeri says, ?We have been working hard for 18 months to finalise the deal and it is great to have opened up a store. Consumers in India are moving towards luxury. The branded apparel market in India is worth Rs 40 billion out of which the premium segment accounts for 20 per cent. This segment is expected to grow at 20-25 per cent.



?The plan is to open ten stores in 12 months. In Mumbai we expect to do business of around Rs 5-6 million a month. In Bangalore we expect to business of around 4 to 5 million a month. We realise that with more exposure to sources like the media the consumer expectations have risen. Therefore there is no question of us compromising on quality even in the slightest degree. All products will be imported. The price range will be 90 per cent of the cost in Hong Kong and Dubai as that is where most Indians do their shopping. We chose to partner with Esprit out of seven possible companies because their management team is serious and passionate about building the Indian market. For marketing we will be taking out hoardings and doing some print activity.?



Apart from the kids products the other products will be available. The products include T-shirts, jeans, caps, trousers, the sports line, eyewear and jackets. Esprit COO Thomas Grote pointed to India and China as being the two key markets in Asia. ?I am not that concerned about short term gains. I am more interested in seeing India being one of our bigger if not our biggest market a decade down the line. What encourages me is the fact that the average age of the country is just 24. In a recent survey that was done those around the age of 28 are the most aspirational in terms of wanting a certain lifestyle. Two years ago we entertained thoughts of entering India. We chose Madura Garments as their parent The Aditya Birla Group is a publicly listed company. So if a venture goes bad then they will have to answer to shareholders. Also they have strong grounding in the retail business. Our market value has grown to $8.5 billion from $1 billion five years ago."

?Without taking into account licensing deals we generated $2.7 million in revenue last year. We expect 20-25 per cent growth this year. Every year we have a global retail turnover of around $2.5 billion. We produce over 10,000 designs in 12 collections every year. We have 630 retail stores and over 9700 wholesale outlets across the globe. We have our design center in Germany," he added.

?Our products are divided into five worlds - casual world, collection world, junior world, kids world and sports world. While it is still early days I would think that our casual world will do well. Our women?s collection will also grow as women grow in their careers and look to dress smarter. Our sports world is more from the fashion side. So we are not looking to compete with Adidas and Nike. It is basically clothes that people can wear while working out.?

Europe is the main market: Speaking to on the sidelines of a launch party Esprit regional director Asia Pacific Peter Hammond points out that 80 per cent of the company?s revenue comes from Europe. While that is not surprising what might be a surprise is the fact that 60-70 per cent of that comes from Germany and the Scandinavian region. It has six stores in Russia which is another country where Hammond feels substantial growth can come from.

Paris and London are secondary markets that the company is trying to build. Asia accounts for 10 per cent of the business. Out of that 30 per cent comes from China. The company launched in China back in 1996 and Hammond claims that Esprit is the number one apparel lifestyle brand in that country. It has as many as 250 stores in the country and Hammond is pinning his hopes on the rising and evolving Chinese middle and upper middle class. He says that the situation of having only rich people and peasants is changing. He adds that while the stores in Hong Kong are profitable the growth potential is less compared to China as it is a mature market.

He feels that Esprit will benefit in India as it already has a burgeoning middle class. Also a lot of youngsters in the 24-30 age group work in the service sector. They have disposable incomes, no dependents and a reasonable propensity to spend. It is for these two reasons that he feels that India has the potential to overtake China in terms of growth for the company.

The irony in all this is that Esprit was formed in America in the 1960s. However the discounting trend hurt the company?s growth prospects. However Hammond points out that it has opened 12 stores in New York. It is a case of going region by region. ?People say that America is one region. What they don?t realise is that when it comes to shopping America has several regions. In the retail business building an emotional connect is crucial."

Otherwise people are not going to bother not matter how good the quality of what you are selling is. This is where our sales and marketing team have done a superb job in Europe. The whole shopping experience,

the walk through the store, the quality of sales service even when ordering online is all important. To be a lifestyle brand you need to be able to privde a power of selection at the right price points. Once you

do that then you can come up with several lines that cater to everyone.?

To celebrate the launch of its stores Esprit held two Skywalk events which were organised by Sports Unlimited. This form of a vertical catwalk was held at The Hilton Towers where the participants navigated a wall that was 35 storeys high and at the Esprit Store. The aim is to reinforce the brand positioning of Esprit of being youthful and vibrant. Hence even if a 50 year old wears an esprit T-Shirt it can give him the feeling of being younger. An emotional connect that was mentioned earlier is thus formed.

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