Woodland — a brand synonymous with footwear and apparels for rugged terrains for over four decades — is in a mood for a change as it adapts to the new post-Covid era of online retail. The legacy footwear company is expanding its omni-channel presence and online sales now contribute over a third of its overall sales versus 10% during pre-Covid times.
The company has created a specific strategy in terms of product offering for the e-commerce channels, which are selling more of mass products and its core range of heavy boots and adventure shoes are available in basic colours like khaki and camel. However, there is a different product range designed for retail stores which is more premium, trendy and high-value offering.
The price range for basic and core items at Woodland sold online is in the range of Rs 4,000, while in-store pricing of products goes up from an average Rs 8,000 plus.
The change is in line with the shift that the company is observing in the consumer behaviour post-Covid. “In the last two years, our repeat customers are willing to buy Woodland’s bread-and-butter products online. So, now when they go to retail stores, they are looking for exciting and trendy products, which is why we have created the differentiation between both sales channels as a strategy,” Pavandeep Singh, vice president (growth strategy), Woodland, told FE.
The footwear brand is also seeing the results of this change playing out in its turnover numbers. Aero Group, the parent company of Woodland, clocked Rs 1,200 crore in revenues in FY20, but saw its sales plummet due to the pandemic and its after effects on all consumer categories. However, the company’s management said that it has recovered 75% of that scale in the year ended March 31, 2022, and is looking to surpass the Rs 1,200-crore revenue mark in FY23. With the festive season in a good spirit, sales from online platforms of Flipkart and Amazon will also add to the company revenues.
“We have crossed pre-Covid levels in terms of sales and the biggest contributor to that in terms of change has been our online sales, across various channels, including e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart, as well as our own website. Those used to contribute less than 10% of our sales pre-Covid, but they jumped to 30-35% of our overall sales,” said Singh. While the footwear market is cluttered, Woodland says it dominates the outdoor footwear market with 80-85% market share.
Founded in Quebec, Canada, Aero Group entered the Indian market in 1992. Before that, it was majorly exporting its leather shoes to the erstwhile USSR (now Russia) and other European countries. As it looked for a newer market, the brand decided to launch some of its products in India — and the first hand-stitched leather shoe was launched in the country. Now, an internationally-recognised brand with retail outlets in countries like Hong Kong, Woodland began its journey with a single store in India.
At present, Woodland has 500 exclusive showrooms across India and shelf space in over 5,500 multi-brand outlets. However, like all consumer sectors, the footwear industry also bore the brunt of the pandemic, due to which it had to shut down 100 showrooms in the last two years.
“Prior to Covid, we had almost about 600 stores, but during Covid we closed some non-profitable and borderline profitable stores as part of the restructuring,” said Harkirat Singh, managing director, Aero Club.
While the company is looking to bring back those stores in a phased manner, it is in no rush as Singh said that with online presence, the dependency on retail stores is reducing. It plans to open 25-30 stores by March 2023.
Given the shift towards health and active lifestyle during Covid, the company is also experimenting with athleisure and sports category shoes, and will increased their reach through distribution and online sales. The company is looking at a Rs 50-60 crore investment during the year which will be more in terms of upgradation of machinery.
With the festive season and winters approaching, the company is aiming for a good sales season for the next 3-4 months. “Boots and jackets form 60% of the company’s sales in these four months, and we are hoping a 20-25% increase in business compared to last year and year before,” said Pavandeep Singh.