Harley-Davidson retail shops to sell branded merchandise

Written by Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | Rasul Bailay | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 9 2012, 06:54am hrs
How about a Harley-Davidson jacket for an evening outing Or a pair of Harley-Davidson boots Get ready to grab some from an authentic store next door. The iconic American motorcycle maker is scripting a branding strategy for India by setting up wholly-owned retail outlets selling its range of branded merchandise including apparel, headgear and bags. The outlets will operate separately from its dealerships.

This is Harley-Davidsons second-biggest leap in India after it decided last year to set up a plant to build completely knocked-down units at Haryana, coinciding with US President Barack Obamas maiden India visit. The companys headquarters in Milwaukee, US, has fully backed the move, managing director of Harley-Davidson India Anoop Prakash told FE.

The company is awaiting the final government notification on allowing 100% FDI in single-brand retail. We are paying close attention to retail FDI discussions. We stand to benefit if FDI in single brand retail is allowed up to 100%. We can start looking at that once the decision goes through. Around the world, we have outlets only for merchandise and we would look at that possibility in India as well, Prakash told FE .

Currently, foreign retailers can own only up to 51% in single-brand outlets, but Harley-Davidson wants to set up fully-owned retail chains. We like doing things our way rather than being pushed into a partnership. Its always better for us to enter a market with full brand control. Its what we did when we entered the Indian market as a 100% owned subsidiary. And thats the same type of ownership we would prefer for any time of future operations here, he said.

Globally, the company has retail outlets in US, China and parts of Europe, among many regions. The development comes close on the heels of Harley-Davidson dragging the countrys largest multi-brand retailer Future Group to the courts for trademark infringement. As FE reported last month, the American bike maker had accused the Future Groups Big Bazaar chain of selling apparel using Harley-Davidson logos without permission. The company had also slammed Big Bazaar for taking undue advantage of goodwill and reputation of its distinct brand. The two sides, however, later agreed to settle matter through an out-of-court arrangement.

Prakash is keen to protect the companys brand in India: We want to protect our trademark and we aggressively monitor it,as evident by the recent High Court decision with Future Group to halt any non-authorised sale of non-genuine merchandise from Harley-Davidson. We will continue to enforce our trademark whether it means raiding a point of manufacture or sale and we do that on a regular basis, he said. He, however, added that India is not the greatest offender (in trademark infringement) by any means.

Top global brands are closely eyeing government policy on FDI in the retail sector. It will help Harley-Davidson from a branding perspective as well, since it would make its accessories easily available to the public, an analyst with a global consultancy firm said. The organised retail market in India is set to double to $30 billion by 2015.