Indian women spend as much on shoes as their counterparts in US, UK but they buy many more pairs with same money

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Andrew Martland | Updated: Jan 15 2013, 06:40am hrs
Clarks, the famous British footwear brand, set foot in India in April, 2011, through Clarks Future Footwear Ltd, an equal joint-venture with the Future Group. The company opened its first store at Connaught Placethe shopping district of New Delhi, and at present has 24 shops across the country. Additionally, it forged partnerships with other retail companies and currently, enjoys presence across Lifestyle, Metro, Reliance stores, and Shoppers Stop outlets.

The company took off with an investment budget of 10 million pounds for the first three years. It plans to increase the number of stores to 31 by the end of this year and is further looking at taking the number to 100 in the next five years. The footwear brand claims to have sold over 3,00,000 pairs in a year and now, aims to take the number to a million pairs per year. In a conversation with FE BrandWagons Anushree Bhattacharyya, Andrew Martland, president, Asia Pacific, Clarks, talks about how the brand is still in the phase of discovering the Indian consumer.

How has been the response to the brand Clarks in India, so far

The brand has been received very positively in the Indian market. The response towards the brand has indicated that the consumer in India is aware about global trends and while making a purchase decision considerable amount of importance is given to style.We have seen acceptance of colours, silhouettes and styles of footwear that are popular globally. Our unique man tailoring positioning used for womens product has resonated strongly with the Indian consumer. I think we have been lucky as people have good knowledge and understanding of the brand which so far was only available to them in international markets like London or Dubai.

Arent you a late entrant in the market, given that some of the homegrown brands are already established players

We dont look at it that way. The Indian footwear market is very unique when compared to the rest of the world. There is a very strong presence of Bata which has been present in the country for over four decades now. However, at the same time, it is seen more as a home grown brand. The fact that it has been present here for such a long time it gave Bata the time to move, adjust and expand across the country. But one should not forget the fact that Bata operates at a cheaper price range as opposed to Clarks. The market also have some really strong brands like Red Tape or Woodland and CatWalk for ladies. But if you look at the number of global big names present in the footwear market, there are only a handful of them and Clarks is one of the first to come.

Arent your price points a matter of concern for a market like India where consumers are considered extremely price conscious

Men in India usually spend around R5000 on their footwear and are ready to go upwards too. On the contrary, women are very interesting in India as they spend as much money on footwear as they do in the United States or in the UK but here they just buy a lot more pairs and spend much less on each one. Keeping this in mind, we launched an affordable range and are continuously working towards developing new range of footwear At the end of the day the idea is to make the brand accessible to consumers. Interestingly, women footwear contribute 60% to our store business. Honestly we are pleasantly surprised.

The Indian market is very different to markets such as Dubai, USA or the UK, how did you prepare yourself for the Indian market

Before entering India, we spent two years on research, trying to grasp the Indian consumers mindset. As part of the exercise, we visited lots of households, and talked to people about what they were looking for in shoes, what are the factors kept in mind before buying a pair of footwear, apart from taking a look at the footwear collection of many people including, men and women. The result was amazing, as it showed that there were women who had 20 pair of flat sandals, 10 pair of pumps, boots, wedgesalmost everything in their closet. This was special about Indian women consumers and we had to understand this before we set shop here. Therefore, we have made changes in our own range of shoes for women including introduction of more colour and many more. We have been operating in India for the last 18 months and what we have learnt is that quite a lot of style of shoes that sells well around the world, also sells well in India.

As you mainly operate in the premium category where does your main consumers residein the metro or are they spread across the country

We are in a phase where we are still discovering the Indian consumer. When we came here, we took a decision to focus on the big cities first. The initial idea was to become as big as possible in the major cities. In the beginning, we opened seven stores in Delhi, six in Bangalore in addition to opening shops in Mumbai and Pune. We recently opened a store in Kanpur, where the response has been phenomenonal. We also began our online store, recently and interestingly, the first few orders came from Mizoram. So I think we have a lot of consumers spread here and there.

What is your marketing strategy You seemed to have intentionally stayed away from mediums such as television and print

Marketing in our case is very targetted as we want to be present only at those destinations where our potential consumer is present. So far, we have invested in activations inside malls, apart from advertising in cinema halls. Moreover, we pay a lot of attention at the point of salethat is window display, shop designing, etc. We still dont have the reach to take advantage of television, so it made no-sense to use the medium. In the coming time, digital and mobile is going to be something that we will need to concentrate on.