New York based casual apparel brand Aéropostale has recently got its first Indian address by opening its maiden store in the capital city Delhi via collaboration with textile major Arvind. In an exclusive chat with Images Retail, Chief Operating Officer – Gant, Nautica and Aéropostale (India), Sumit Dhingra highlights the brand’s India specific growth plans…
The brand is been operational here since almost one year, so how’s your experience working with the brand?
We recently completed one year in India and I am very happy and satisfied the way things have gone so far. We have a very good presence in terms of exclusive stores and shop-in-shops, and now we are also online. So far, we have managed to get very good response from all the stores that we have on ground.
Presently, we have eight EBOs and six shop-in-shops. And, we plan to open around four more EBOs and four shop-in-shops by the end of December. The location of these upcoming stores will be pan India including one more in Hyderabad along with each store in cities like Jalandhar, Lucknow, Vadodra.
Off late, Indian market has seen so many international entries of renowned players like H&M and many more? Do you see them as your competition? Also, how do you justify brand’s presence in such crowded market?
I don’t think that market is crowded. Look at the size of organised apparel market in India we are nowhere close to potential of a country of one billion population. This market can absorb a lot many brands; in fact, brands can grow much bigger comparing what they are right now. Indian fashion market is becoming mature and going with the sync of global fashion trends, and changing value equation of fast fashion is helping in growing the market further.
In terms of consumption, yes H&M is our competition. They talk to same consumer profile that we talk to, that is young fashion conscious men and women, but same time they are also very value conscious. Our price point suits them better. In terms of saturation and maturity we are far ahead from H&M.
Kindly highlight your brand USP?
Aéropostale is a leading specialty retailer, which has close to 800 stores across the world. The roots of the brand is classic American looks if you look through modern lens. The brand is known for very big logos, timeless elements and motif out of the American heritage and makes them relevant. The quality is fantastic, plus the entire range is very well affordable and accessible. Styles are classic, traditional and refined. It is for the consumer who is cool and creative young and flirtatious.
Has the entire portfolio of the brands is introduced to Indian stores including its sub-brands like ‘Live Love Dream’, ‘Invite Only’ among others?
We have the whole line including all the sub-brands. Majority of the portfolio is same; though, we have done slight tweaks. Though, the global look is maintained here as well. Having said that, we have created a line by adding a new category like bottom wear and is tweaked as per Indian style.
Which category of the brand is turning out to be bestseller? Also share your price point? Are you also aiming for category expansion for Indian stores?
Our graphic T-shirts are the bestsellers, and active pants and hoodies are the best-selling categories for us. Even in future, we will continue to focus on these two categories mainly.
Men’s range starts from Rs 599, for women range starts from Rs 499. In India, the brand is positioned as mass premium brand. In accessories we have eyewear, bags, footwear, innerwear and other goods. Category wise, we are sufficiently presented, no further expansion is required.
Kindly share your store profile including size, location, footfall and average per sq.ft sales?
Our average store size is 2,500 sq.ft. Although the size of our biggest store as of now is 4,000 sq.ft. Regarding the location, we prefer malls those which are high on foot traffic, even for Tier I and II expansion strategy would be the same. As of now we are not focusing on high streets.
Presently, our average sales per sq.ft. is Rs 80, and average footfall falls anywhere between 150 to 600 people per day. Average number of SKUs per store is 600. However, during festive session the number of SKUs goes up to 1,400. For customer feedbacks we have a CRM programme in place along with an analytic team because the brand is very new. Leading information Technology Company Capillary looks after our CRM operations.
Throw light on your Omnichannel strategy to scale the brand’s growth.
Our Omnichannel operation is powered by Nnnow.com. E-commerce is the great way to reach my target audience, and we are very bullish on this format of retail. Currently, 12 per cent of our business comes from online.
Kindly comment on growth potential of fast fashion market in India.
I handle three brands, all three are registering double digit growth. Nautica’s average growth for last three years is 53 per cent y-o-y basis. We are targeting Rs 500 crore for Aéropostale in next four years. For first year we will be targeting Rs 100 crore.
How many EBOs Aéropostale will have by the end of current financial year?
We are aiming for 19 stores by end of current financial year and location would be pan India.