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Mall Zoning Rationale for Footwear and Fashion Stores

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Since the beginning of India’s mall explosion in 1999, fashion retail has been on the forefront of the revolution. When it comes to the overall corpus of retail space transaction happening in the country today, this segment is definitely a leading and highly influential stakeholder.

Indians trace back their awareness of and appreciation for international apparel brands to the country’s Colonial times. Today, fashion retail in India is highly competitive and there has been an avalanche of global fashion brands making an entry into the Indian marketplace. Needless to say, the increasingly aspirational Indian shopper community welcomes each new signpost and milestone on the road to organized fashion retail. There is no doubt that cutting-edge fashion will always enjoy a place of honour and high potential in India.

The positioning of fashion retail outlets such as shoes and fashion accessories presents within malls an interesting scenario. In the first place, international brands will typically always occupy prime ground floor space in malls, regardless of category. Some fashion brands are genuinely of high repute and command instant recall in the minds of customers and the developers. Premium price points over Indian brands active in the same retail category are invariably a factor, with import duty and superior product quality playing a role. In the case of such brands, prime space on the ground floor is usually axiomatic and non-negotiable.

Domestic footwear brands will usually be allocated space in a zone that is decided upon by the leasing team, and casual footwear brands tend to be clustered together. Similarly, sports footwear and apparel brands will also share a common zone. Obviously, positioning within a mall will also be dictated by the price points of the merchandise being sold. Accessory brands will usually occupy spaces adjacent to fast fashion brands, or at entry points / high footfall points with high visibility, since such purchases are usually done on impulse.

Preferred zoning that allows international brands to hog the limelight in malls is a fact of life, and based on various fundamentals. For example, a customer of shoes does not fall in the same category as a customer who will buy shoes from Indian footwear brands, regardless of the domestic brand’s overall value proposition. When one is talking of price tags in the neighbourhood of Rs. 30000 for an Italian footwear brand vis-à-vis Rs. 4000 for a domestic brand, the ballgame changes.

That said, footwear brands such as Hush Puppies, Metro and Mochi are the preferred choice of daily wear for a large cross section of Indian shoppers. These shoppers may still occasionally wear a pair of shoes by Ferragamo’s, but expect visible access to ‘routine’ brands as well. It therefore emerges that such footwear brands deserve and are assigned suitably visible zones within a mall.

With increasing exposure, Indian shoppers are definitely acquiring a taste for international brands in footwear and fashion accessories. Such brands are now becoming a common sight in the metros, and are being given visibility in the malls of larger cities. The kind of positioning they get in metro-centric malls will depend on how long the brand has been around in the Indian space – in other words, over what period brand recall has had a chance to firm up. A classic example would be the kind of brands which opened up in Mall, Saket when it opened its doors six years ago. Regardless of where their stores were within the mall at that time, they currently occupy prime ground space in the mall.

 About the Author

Monesh Bhojwani is the Head of JLL Retail Asset Management, Amanora Town Centre (Pune)