1. Big brands squeezed out to suburbia

Big brands squeezed out to suburbia

A shortage of quality retail real estate has forced global multinational brands, especially in the fast fashion category, to settle for less attractive launchpads.

By: | Mumbai | Updated: February 2, 2016 1:16 AM
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The real estate crunch might be taking the sheen off big-bang openings but the bigger brands are unlikely to suffer over the longer term.(Photo: Reuters)

A shortage of quality retail real estate has forced global multinational brands, especially in the fast fashion category, to settle for less attractive launchpads. While American fashion label GAP will roll out its maiden store in Infiniti Mall in Malad or Goregaon, Swedish major Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) will foray into Mumbai via Kurla, an eastern suburb or Malad, a northern suburb. Those aren’t as upmarket as Lower Parel’s Phoenix Mills in central Mumbai. But with Phoenix unable to relocate clients or renegotiate rental agreements, H&M doesn’t have a choice. As Govind Shrikhande, MD at Shoppers Stop, points out, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get quality mall space. “High streets are not optimum for large-sized stores, it is an option if you want smaller, sub 10,000 square feet outfits,” Shrikhande observed.

H&M is believed to have reached an agreement with Phoenix Mills for a multi-location deal and K Raheja Corporation to anchor Inorbit Mall. Both companies did not confirm the development to FE.

Several other international retailers, looking for a big-bang opening in the most affluent and lucrative shopping neighbourhoods — southern and central Mumbai — could be disappointed. There’s a shortage of space in the top malls — those with a less than 10% vacancy — so they will be forced to move north. In fact, in the 20 km between south Mumbai and Bandra, the first suburb, just one mall is fully occupied with others over 50% vacant.

GAP and H&M had blockbuster openings in Delhi’s upmarket Select City Walk mall in 2015, with GAP reportedly notching up sales of R23 lakh in the first month and H&M debuting with an astronomical R1 crore on day one.

FE could not independently verify these sales numbers with the companies but they would be difficult to achieve in suburban locations. If average trading densities are compared, suburban malls deliver 40% less than High Street Phoenix and Palladium in Lower Parel.

Inditex-owned clothing giant, Zara, globally H&M’s toughest competitor, entered India five years ago at Select City Walk and moved to Palladium in Phoenix Mills shortly after. In Select City, Zara operates from an approximately 20,000 sq ft store and makes a revenue per sq ft of nearly Rs 6,000. In Palladium, from its roughly 15,000 sq ft store, it rakes in about Rs 4,500 per sq ft. But in a catchment like

Malad, H&M will be lucky if it can make more than Rs 2,000 per sq ft.

Even in suburban malls, space is becoming a constraint. Sources said that Lifestyle is relocating itself within the Inorbit mall to make space for H&M. Nirzar Jain, vice-president at Oberoi mall in Goregaon told FE that despite reducing the tenures of leases for existing occupants, global retailers are having to wait out for more than 18 months sometimes.

The real estate crunch might be taking the sheen off big-bang openings but the bigger brands are unlikely to suffer over the longer term. Pankaj Renjhen, director of retail services at JLL India, points out that while there could be a lot of buzz post a launch, or in the months that follow, these are not indicative of how the brand fares over the longer term. Also, given retailers have big plans for India — H&M wants to roll out 50 stores in five years — they can’t lose too much time.

The American fashion brand Forever 21 started out in the suburbs and it 11,000 sq ft outlet has been fairly successful, delivering approximately Rs 2,500 per sq ft. However, it doesn’t strictly compete with brands such as H&M that are more expensive. Mukesh Kumar, vice-president at Infiniti mall, believes there is a demand for fast fashion, given the youth are both aware and aspirational.

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