In 2016, Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail – as progressive a group as they come – decided to launch a fast fashion brand to take on the likes of international brands Zara and H&M. In April of that year, Cover Story was born.
When the Future Group does nothing, it’s never halfway house. The company then proceeded to set up a design house based out of London to develop cutting edge fast fashion. This design house was dubbed Future Style Lab, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Future Group, which developed and procured styles for Cover Story. Cover Story refreshes 10 percent of its collection every week by adding new pieces. It then phases out 10 percent of the older collection to even out the stock.
Cover Story, which aims to set the pace for India’s fast-fashion business through integrating global fashion design with smart and efficient sourcing, is fast becoming the go-to dress-buying destination for Indian women. The brand has EBOs in all the major malls of the country, and its outlets are designed to recreate an ‘intimate boutique’ and provide a comfortable shopping experience. The layout is layers of transparency with opacity, which encourages a sense of discovery while shopping.
IMAGES Retail Bureau spoke exclusively with Manjula Tiwari, CEO, Future Style Lab, who gave us the complete scoop on brand’s plans for the future…
Tell us about the brand Cover Story. What’s your journey been like? What is your USP?
Cover Story is a fast fashion brand that designs and delivers the latest global trends to style-conscious Indian women, at affordable prices. Our design studio in London – Future Style Lab – curates and creates fits, cuts and colors that flatter the Indian body.
The journey has been phenomenal. It started with a chance conversation backed with support from Future Group, and a single-minded vision to provide best fashion to Indian women but in a way that works for them. In a short span of 18 months we have seen the brand become a hot favourite of the modern Indian women. What stands out for them, are the feminine cuts that flatter them, the great prices, and gorgeous color palettes which other fast fashion brands lack.
How has been the response to the brand so far?
We are seeing some serious love for the brand evolve over the last 10 months. Consumers have been overheard to praise the collection at Cover Story and they acknowledge that the brand is truly fashionable, in the sense, ‘if you like something, better get it now because it won’t be here next week’. Many consumers consider us as their go to dress brand and often come to us because they know they will find something fresh and suitable for them here.
The brand was introduced to take on Zara and H&M in India. How far have you succeeded in that?
We are different to these other fast fashion brands. Our objective is to provide consumers in India international fashion but adapted to suit their body type far better than the other players. We are on the right path – to provide consumers with a breath of fresh air, we have a certain take on runway fashion and it is this feminine touch which sets us apart from these other brands.
To launch a fast fashion collection requires a lot of design sensibilities. Tell us about the Future Style Lab setup in UK?
In order to ensure we have the right pulse on the international runway trends, we were clear that we needed a design house based out of London. Our design team comes with great experience in the fast fashion space and being close to all the runway action, we ensure we catch the latest trends in time.
What is your pricing strategy?
Best trends in quality fashion at affordable prices (competitive and more attractive than other brands).
How many SKUs/ product categories do you offer under your brand? Which are the typically faster moving categories and why, in your opinion?
We at Cover Story offer a complete wardrobe solution for every fashionable woman. Our offerings include something for everyone with multiple options across casual wear, work wear, occasion wear and outwear etc. Typically, in a season, we introduce 400-500 SKU’s spread across different categories. We make sure that we have fresh designs in our stores every week and that is why each customer would have reasons to come back to us and never leave disappointed.
Our dresses are the fastest moving category – most popular with consumers. Our dresses have clicked well with the Indian audience given the cuts, shapes and price points.
As a category, it is fast growing with the target audience and at Cover Story the options provided within this category carry the touch of femininity they are looking for.
Any category expansion plans?
As we move towards opening larger format stores, we will be expanding the categories we feature, including work wear amongst others. The vision is to become a whole wardrobe solution for the Indian woman in the western category.
Elaborate upon the Omnichannel strategy of the brand.
Cover Story is on track to become a commercial brand – this of course means its accessibility across the nation is key. When the brand launched, the objective was to blanket the market and ensure that it is accessible to the wider audience via all channels, EBOs, MBOs and online. As the brand evolves, there will be more focus on opening larger format EBOs, but with the backing of Central that has a wide footprint, and not to forget an online presence in the ever-growing e-commerce market.
What’s your marketing/ promotion strategy? Please give specific details. What is lined up for the future?
We believe the future of consumer engagement is to get personal – create a connect with the consumer through great experiences. We intend to bring our customers a connect to our London designers with regular events and interaction, and to create constant content around international fashion and style to establish Cover Story as a go to fashion authority for the Indian consumer.
Tell us about the tech innovations that you have introduced at your stores.
We have long been incorporating digital into our stores by providing consumers a way to experience fashion one step further. Our Elo screens in store allow users to browse our season lookbook and current catalogues on ideas on how to style each piece in the store. Furthermore, now with our own e-commerce portal live, we allow users to book their outfits from our website in case their sizes are not available in store.
What is the turnover that you are estimating this year?
Our turnover is better than industry standards for an 18-month-old brand – however exact numbers are discretionary.
What are your growth aspirations in the next two-three years?
Our growth aspirations are simple enough – to become the go-to brand in the western wear category for women and become the first Indian-born brand to be part of the fast fashion consumer consideration set.
Tell us about the retail planning for Cover Story? How many exclusive stores do you currently and how many more have you planned and of what size?
Cover Story currently has 16 EBOs and plan to grow to a strength of 24 in the next financial year. The aim is to open larger format stores, nothing less than 1,500 sq. ft. in this new line up, to truly showcase a better range of categories for the discerning customer. Our latest opening at Ambience Gurgaon is our flagship store at 2,000 sq. ft. and we have many more planned.
Throw some light on your expansion plans. Any plans to explore new cities or to test international waters?
With new store openings lined up, we intend to have a footprint across all metros and Tier I cities. Having a large presence online via our own platform and other market places, we will ensure reach to all cities in the country. We currently have no plans to open abroad but are always exploring the opportunities that come our way – so maybe one day. Right now, the focus is at home.
How has been growth of standalone stores in the current year?
Standalone stores at some of the best malls across the country has given the brand its identity as a truly international shopping experiential fast fashion brand.