Wiesner Worldwide Kreations (WWK) is targeting big retail chains in India to build a strong presence of the sports and youth lifestyle brand Airwalk across the North, South and East zones of the country through distributors and retailers, says Bhavna Jha, VP South East Asia, Wiesner Worldwide Kreations. WWK has targeted distribution to more than 35 national and regional format stores across various product categories. It has already collaborated with major retail stores like Westside, Hypercity, and Home Centre. Besides retail chains, the firm plans to target large number of distributors. The company has also opened an office in India and appointed a team of 15 people.
The Indian arm of Wiesner Products of New York, WWK recently signed a marketing agreement with Collective Licensing International (CLI), the company that owns and manages Airwalk, to bring the brand in the country. Under the agreement, WWK will hold the license for Airwalk across youth categories in India, including kid’s footwear, apparel and general merchandise. The Airwalk collection in India will debut in Autumn Winter 2012.
Wiesner Worldwide Kreations also plans to tap tier II and III cities and reach out to consumers through format stores. Commenting on the customisation of Weisner products for the Indian market, Jha said the company wants to keep the international flavour alive for Airwalk but meanwhile plans to keep the brand affordable in India. The company does not have any plans of openings a separate design office in India for its products as of now and will primarily work through its New York and Shanghai offices.
Pointing out the trends prevalent in the Indian sportswear market Jha said, “Online shopping is the key factor boosting sportswear sales in the country. Major players are capitalizing on this trend and have tied up with online shopping sites like Myntra, Fashion and you to reach out the vast consumer base. Sports merchandising is also fast picking up, brands have tied up with various sports like Formula 1, Cricket etc.and have introduced special merchandise to pump up their sales. Product innovation is another prevalent trend through which brands have been introducing new technologies and have been constantly investing in innovations to encash premium as well as mass segment. Yet another trend is lifestyle positioning, the sports lifestyle business has been growing at 30 to 40 percent per annum. Players are increasingly positioning their sportswear brands as lifestyle products by collaborating with well-known designers. Finally, brands are now targeting hot spots of consumption. Having covered large cities, sportswear brands are now trying to ramp up their presence in tier-II and III cities.”
She further added that consumer choice is often connected to an admired sportsperson who wears the brand, and the general image linked to a particular line of clothing. While the majority of clothing types see a balance between retailers’ own-branded merchandise, manufacturers’ brands, and unbranded products, more than 75 percent of the active sportswear market is dominated by branded items and almost 80 percent of athletic footwear is sold under brand names.
Jha added that according to a report the sportswear market is estimated to reach the 1, 159 billion mark by 2014, growing at a CAGR of around 33 percent during 2010-2014. However, there is a huge opportunity to be tapped in the tier II and III towns. Companies are using reduced pricing and localization strategy to drive sales in these cities. She said that sportswear market in India is witnessing stupendous growth. The factors that have fuelled the rapid expansion include lifestyle changes, change in consumer buying behaviour, and increase in the disposable income. Globalisation, inspiration from international market and consumer’s exposure to various brands, designs, and formats are also responsible for the boost in the segment. The market includes sports apparel, footwear and accessories, with footwear being the largest segment, accounting for around 60 percent of the total market. “Consumers are becoming conscious of the difference between sportswear and sleepwear, and are opting for specific outfits for sports activities,” she said.
Weisner Products is currently focussing on its license business. So far it has entered into a license agreement with Nickelodeon India, kid’s entertainment channel, to sell Keymon Ache products in India and a marketing agreement with Collective Licensing International (CLI), the company that owns and manages Airwalk.
WWK will be sourcing its products in India primarily from the eastern part including Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gangtok, and Sikkim and from suburbs of west and eastern coast. Globally, Weisner sources its products from Philippines, Egypt, and China for its US and China markets. In China, in addition to exclusive sourcing agreements with local suppliers, the company also co-owns a few production facilities.
Commenting on the budget announcements, Jha said: “It’s a mixed reaction. We are discussing close to 8 percent growth rate and that’s commendable. In the past, we have not been very enthusiastic of propagating and bringing the changes which involves close to 70 percent of Indian population. The boost in Industrial sector is an addendum as it will propel new business opportunity across sectors. However, increase in service tax and excise duties is a disappointment.”