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Benetton India plans omni-channel expansion: Sundeep Chugh

In an exclusive conversation with Sundeep Chugh, Chief Executive Officer, Benetton India sheds light on growth plans of the company.

Tags: Benetton, India, sisley, UCB

BY Shipra Srivastava  |  July 07, 2017  |  comments ( 0 )  | 

Sundeep Chugh

Benetton is an iconic brand which is operational in India market for a while now. So, how do your sum-up the brand’s journey so far?

India is now one of the top markets outside Italy for the brand. Benetton operates through 800+ doors in India. Fast retail expansion and reaching to tier 2 & 3, applying multichannel business model and early adaptation of e-commerce have been core strategies to build Benetton brand in the Indian market. We have tried ensuring that we select our stores carefully and at the best locations and provide unmatched retail experience to our customers through immaculate visual merchandising.

Alignment with our headquarters on adapting to the latest store concepts has also been key to the fast track development of Benetton India. We recently also, launched #UnitedBy series of Marketing campaigns, that further enhances the brand positioning and customer connect. Our strong product line which is more conducive for Indian customer in terms of fits, style and colors has been very well received and appreciated in the markets. The impact is clearly visible in the positive numbers.

All in all, our journey has been the right mix of presence, product and communication.

 India as whole is developing as a mature market when it comes to fashion, how you comapre this with other markets?

From the consumer profiles, to buying behaviour as well and demand & supply ratio, every facet has seen major development in these years, leading to a tremendous increase of India’s share in global consumption. Market is just at par with international fashion trend cycle. Lots of new brands have made entry in India and launch of these brands is opening up the market with their own USPs and offerings. The customers have already experienced these brands internationally and thus the fashion retail landscape is in a highly dynamic state currently.

Also, India is a diverse country and a melting pot of cultures. With the ever increasing westernization, the younger generation is getting more inclined towards vibrant brands like Benetton due to their wide brand portfolio. The new age Indian consumers are very advanced, well - traveled, well informed and has a great taste. They know the latest trends and follow their instinct. 

India is one of the top countries that have witnessed such a drastic growth in online channels. That further reinstates the fact of how increasingly advanced the marketing is shaping.

 How do you see fashion and lifestyle market is growing in India? What are the factors propelling the industry’s growth? Please tell us about some of the trends you have been witnessing in your industry in India over the past few years.

The 2015 Holiday collection had made the major shifts in consumer buying patterns very clearly. The rise of internet shopping and growth of off-price retailing are mega-trends reshaping the retail industry. Internet sales are booming at the cost of direct store purchases. Near term sales weakness in apparel and general merchandise are adding to the pressure.  Young customers are prioritizing the purchase of new technology over other goods, and the unseasonably warm weather has left many winter coats, boots, and sweaters on retailers’ shelves awaiting even deeper markdowns. 

  Please highlight your current distribution? How you plan to scale-up the distribution for these two formats? 

The stores today are present across 800+ doors and 350+ EBOs. In additions to A+ cities, today the brand is extensively visible in tier 2, 3 & 4 across 150 cities. India as whole is developing as a mature market when it comes to fashion trends and retail experience. With the retail market evolving at a rapid pace and new brands entering the Indian market with innovation and strategies, there has been a lot of change that we have noted. 

Today, India is one of the top markets outside Italy for the Brand. Benetton operates through 800+ stores in India. Fast retail expansion and reaching to tier 2 & 3, applying multichannel business model and early adaptation of e-commerce has been extremely instrumental in the process. We tried ensuring that we select our stores carefully and at the best locations and provide unmatched retail experience to our customers through immaculate visual merchandising. Alignment with our headquarters on adapting to the latest store concepts has also been key to the fast track development of Benetton India. 

 What is the location strategy for your stores – malls or high street? Which locations do you prefer? Are you also looking at shop-in-shops?

Benetton has a wide range of products and caters to diverse people & needs. Given the same both locations high street and malls work well for the brand as long as it is in a location that attracts the right customer. 

 Are you looking for sub franchise stores too? If yes, what kind of franchisees are you looking for, and where in India?

We prefer the franchise model but in cases where there is a strong sub-franchise partner, we consider the sub-franchise option.

 Are there any interesting concepts or innovations you have introduced at your stores? Please give details. 

We have introduced the new On Canvas store concept, the store that transforms itself. ‘On Canvas’ is derived from the traditional concept of a loom. It serves as a light, simple but solid and almost invisible structure, around which seasons, collections, colours and materials are created. Symbolising tradition and craftsmanship, and also emblematic of innovation, the ‘loom’ enables all kinds of transformation within the store. Materials, canvases and spaces alter and change, creating infinite solutions.

 How focused are you on ecommerce and what is your ecommerce strategy? What are your future plans regarding ecommerce? Are there any unique initiatives you have taken online (regarding social media, ecommerce, etc.)? How are you leveraging the online space to boost your revenues and customer connect?

The industry overall has witnessed a tremendous change in consumer behaviour- the new age consumer today is more digitally active, stays updated with global trends. Digital is paramount for any brand in the same space as us. The rising internet penetration plays a very vital role in shaping and changing the dynamics of the market. With the e-commerce boom in the past few years, products and brands are more accessible to the consumers. The rise of internet shopping and growth of off-price retailing are mega-trends reshaping the retail industry. Internet sales are booming at the cost of direct store purchases. 

The significance of online sales cannot be ignored and United Colors of Benetton strongly puts emphasis on online presence. We have associated with leading e-tailers in India and the brand is available across all key ecommerce sites. 

Social media is extremely important for us and acts as a great tool to reach out to our consumers directly, with the right story approach. Social media has brought brands and customers closer, in just a few clicks. This platform can never be left unnoticed. Being present and active on social channels and using these platforms to connect with the consumers if definitely an approach unavoidable. It has also helped us to send out the right messaging for Benetton- that the brand represents quality products through knit and colors and is extremely socially conscious. 

Recently the brand had applied for FDI (single brand retail). Any further development on that front? 

Not yet, we have applied and awaiting communication.

Please mention growth plans? 

The stores today are present across 800+ doors and 350+ EBOs. In additions to A+ cities, today the brand is extensively visible in tier 2, 3 & 4 across 150 cities.  Fast retail expansion and reaching to tier 2 & 3, applying multichannel business model and early adaptation of e-commerce has been extremely instrumental in the process. We have tried ensuring that we select our stores carefully and at the best locations and provide unmatched retail experience to our customers through immaculate visual merchandising. Also, the brand is also introducing a product diversification strategy and would be making interesting launches soon.

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