The jewellery brand founder talks about why offline makes more business sense
Fashion jewellery brand Voylla started as an online-only player back in 2012, before course-correcting and foraying into offline retail three years back. From 75 exclusive brand outlets today, the company has an ambitious target of reaching 500 such outlets in the next five years. Vishwas Shringi tells Devika Singh why offline makes more business sense, and why there’s high demand for jewellery and accessories in the smaller towns.
Voylla has been strengthening its offline presence lately. Did you find it challenging to sell jewellery online? How much does offline sales contribute to your business?
We started out online because we wanted to understand the business. And, over time, we realised that consumer behaviour in the fashion category is very different. People want to try on accessories before buying them. Ditto for precious jewellery. You can use technology to a great extent to solve this problem, but the instant gratification factor they look for isn’t there online. We now know that the opportunity lies in offline retail, and that will be our focus going ahead. However, we will still be retailing through our website and online marketplaces.
The fundamental difference in purchase behaviour online and offline is that when buying online, people sort by price, whereas offline, people sort by design. We have seen that people are ready to pay twice the amount offline, than what they would online. People buying from marketplaces are looking for deals.
Presently, the share of online and offline is 50:50, even though our offline journey started only three years ago.
What are the retail formats you are present in? Are you looking at markets beyond metros?
We have a presence in 160 retail touchpoints across India. At the peak, we had a presence in 225 retail touchpoints through shop-in-shops, kiosks and exclusive brand outlets (EBOs), but we reduced the number of shop-in-shops so that we could offer consumers the right experience through our own stores. So going ahead, EBOs will be our focus. Currently, we have 75 EBOs, of which 45 are franchises. We are looking at launching 70-80 stores every year, for the next five years.
Today, we have the highest presence in Delhi-NCR with 12 stores; however, there is potential to open 13 more stores there. Similarly, Mumbai has potential for 20-30 stores. Although we need to have more stores in the metros, expanding in tier II, III and IV is an opportunity. Every town with a population of over five lakh should have a Voylla store.
Which are the high growth markets for Voylla?
North India contributes 35%, which is higher than other zones, while the South region contributes around 31%.
Media and Bollywood have created certain aspirations, and we are seeing demand and growth across the country. Today, a girl from a tier IV town wants to experiment when it comes to fashion accessories. We are present in towns like Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, Aligarh and Sonipat. Roughly 50% of our demand comes from tier II and III markets. We have stores in towns with a population of 50,000, which are very profitable.
Amid competition from Chinese players online and fashion retailers such as Chumbak and Fabindia offline, where does Voylla stand?
Our designs are mostly handcrafted — there are 150 artisans working with us in Jaipur — which do not compete with machine-made products that come from China. While Chumbak is an edgy brand, a girl from a tier IV town, for example, would not buy its products. These brands are doing well in the niche segment, appealing to the urban sensibility to differentiate themselves. We don’t see them as competition; we are a mass brand.
Will you be foraying into new categories?
We see potential in the men’s jewellery segment, and have piloted a few pop-up stores. We do have plans to experiment with standalone stores for men, but the time is not right. We have a small section in our online store just to understand consumer behaviour. Also, everything we do is art driven. Our focus was on jewellery, to begin with, and now we are into accessories. We launched watches a while back; we see a great opportunity there and will be expanding in that category.