Marketing high style wear


High fashion is changing track in India. The first big step in this direction was seen recently when Danish luxury footwear brand Ecco decided to give 5-star hotels a miss and set up shop in an up market locality. Industry watchers say a host of other luxury brands led by Escada and Dolce & Gabana are also in negotiations to buy retail space at premium malls that are mushrooming across India.

High-end fashion brands are understood to be in talks for outlets outside premium hotels. And the list is growing by the day.

The big ticket luxury and fashion brands which took their first steps on the Indian soil inside 5-star properties are now sashaying down the high streets. It’s the realization that the big spenders in India are not limited to 5-star hotels. These brands are now trying to get closer to their customers.

A high fashion product company felt a 5 star shop would limit their customers. Despite the growing spending power among Indian consumers, they have an aversion to shopping at 5-star hotels. So the company decided to go where the customers are that is malls catering only to premium brands.

A recent luxury trends report from Ledbury Research says the number of Indian families with annual incomes of over $230,000 more than doubled from 20,000 in 2002 to 53,000 by 2005-end, and will grow to 140,000 by 2010. And, it’s this audience that the premium brands are targeting.

A faster jog to profitability is another big reason for this shift in strategy. ‘Ecco’ which set up its first concept shop in Saket’s Square One mall, is already confident of turning profitable in 2-3 years despite a portfolio of shoes that carry tags between Rs 8,000 and Rs. 30,000. More than just footfalls, a mall outlet will help us become profitable faster.

Industry watchers say this course correction is a natural progression for most luxury brands across the globe. The luxury brands have always entered a new market through a 5-star outlet. It was the case in China too. And as the market develops, they start stepping out.

Five-star hotels provide the perfect entry point for luxury brands, which include car makers like Bentley and Rolls Royce When they look at expanding their presence, they move out.

The only stumbling block is the low number of specialty malls in India. But this can also be a big opportunity for realty developers to build and create more retailing of high style wear through Malls.