A Step In The Right Direction: Customer Centricity Leads To Successful Footwear Retailing

Images Retail|November 2019

A Step In The Right Direction: Customer Centricity Leads To Successful Footwear Retailing
A quick search on any marketplace e-commerce portals and the category of footwear and you will see a new brand every few days. And not just on the internet, even on high streets and in malls, you see not only EBOs of brands like BATA, Metro, Mochi, Clarks etc. but also a plethora of new brands. Footwear retailing has witnessed a dynamic revolution in the past few years. IMAGES Retail Bureau speaks with some prominent footwear players to understand what has led to this transformation and what the future holds…
Zainab S Kazi

When UK based brands Clarks was launched in India in 2005, many industry experts weren’t too optimistic of its survival in the country. The reason was simple – the brand’s the price points. There were veterans from the industry who strongly felt that the Indian market wasn’t ready to welcome such a high-end footwear brand and rightly so. Around 15 years ago, the brand did face many challenges to establish itself in India. From fighting it out to convincing people on the price points to getting their attention on the salient features of the brand, there was tremendous pressure being faced by them back then.

Today, 14 years down the line, the brand is well accepted by Indian shoppers and besides having a strong online presence, is available at all prominent malls across the country. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Clarks led the way for many international high end brands to enter India. Currently, there is a healthy competition between national and international brands, most of which are housed adjacent to each other in malls and on high streets.

Growing Demand

Soumi Banik, Managing Director, Ajanta Footwear highlights the current dynamics of the footwear industry in India stating, “The industry includes various types of footwear including athletic and non-athletic shoes used by individuals of all age groups and gender. The global footwear market is segmented by type of footwear, end users of footwear, various platforms for sale of footwear, material used, and their sales across various geographies. Leather footwear occupies a significant market share in the global market as well. Additionally, rising health concerns are influencing individuals to perform indoor and outdoor physical activities. This trend has generated a high demand for athletic (sports) shoes, in turn increasing the demand for footwear. In addition, changing lifestyles and rising number of working professionals are leading the demand for non-athletic footwear segment. The improved spending capabilities of individuals, changing lifestyles, and rising number of working professionals has increased the spending capability of individuals. This is occurring especially in the developing countries and leading to further expansion of the overall market for footwear.”

The growth story of Metro Brands Ltd. that is home to a network of 527 companyowned-company-operated stores spread across 119 cities, accentuates the growing potential of footwear retailing in India.

The company houses brands like Metro Shoes, Mochi, Walkway, DaVinci and it also operates retail stores for Crocs. Besides having such a robust offline presence, their online presence not only includes being available on marketplaces like Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon etc. but they also run their exclusive portals for their brands Mochi and Metro Shoes. On the expansion the brand witnessed in 2018-19, Farah Malik Bhanji, CEO Metro Brands Ltd. shares, “At an overall level, there has been a comparatively faster network expansion. We crossed the 500th store mark in 2018-19.”

Citing the reasons for the ever increasing demand for footwear in India, she explains, “With the digital and social media expansion, awareness and the aspiration to look trendy and fashionable every time has increased. Customers today are spoilt for choices. The share of the shoe in the wardrobe has increased. Today’s customer is well aware of what she wants. They want variety, choice and trendy footwear with great service at all times with little effort. We also see a reversal of roles with the youth guiding adults on what looks good and what to buy.”

Where Metro Brands Ltd. has options to suit different budgets, it is interesting to note that brands that sell at a premium too are witnessing a growth in demand. Speaking of which, the journey of Heel & Buckle is worth a mention. Launched as a bespoke studio in London’s Hampstead, in 2011, it was launched in India by the DAR Group from Delhi who formed Heel & Buckle Luxury Pvt. Ltd. The group further launched a luxury multi-brand retailer of footwear and accessories called Berleigh. With a presence in Mumbai, New Delhi, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, Raipur and Indore, the brand with its excellent craftsmanship is catching the fancy of Indians who do not mind paying a premium for their footwear.

Elaborating on their presence, Shashank Arya, Executive Director, DAR Group says, “The brand is also available online on Myntra and we also have an exclusive e-commerce portal through which we deliver our products pan India. A major milestone that we have achieved in 2018-19 is making our brand available to the target audience across the country through our website.”

Another homegrown brand whose journey is worth tracking is Lakhani Infinity Footwear Pvt. Ltd. that has a strong presence across the country through its dealer network. Mayank Lakhani, Managing Director, Lakhani Infinity Footcare Pvt. Ltd. shares, “The company was incorporated in the year 2013 with an initial capital of just `1 lakh. The commercial operations started in August 2014 and in our inaugural year itself, the company achieved an annual turnover of `10 crores with a staff of only 20 people. In 2016, our turnover was `50 crore and if we look at the current year, we have already achieved a total turnover of `105 crores.” He attributes the growth in their market share owing to their ability to cater to the needs of the average Indian middle class. “We also have a whole new segment of highly trending fashionsportswear 2018 for the youth ranging from `799 to `1299/ which has picked up really well and improved our market share. Our new, affordable office/formal wear range called STATUS by the house of Lakhani Vardaan has gained popularity among the office goers,” he adds.


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November 2019