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‘Lifestyle as a brand has good acceptance’

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Department store chain Lifestyle, part of the Dubai-based Landmark Group, continued to grow even during the recent economic slowdown. The company recently opened a 70,000 sq.ft store in Delhi, taking the store count of Lifestyle in India to 22. Kabir Lumba, MD, Lifestyle International Pvt Ltd, is optimistic to take the store count to 40 over the next three years. In an exclusive interview with IndiaRetailing, Lumba talks about how the company managed to sail through the slowdown.

You plan to increase the number of Lifestyle stores to 40 in the next three years. Which markets (cities/towns) is the brand targetting?
We expanded fast during the slowdown, and we will continue with the trend. One reason for our rapid expansion is that Lifestyle as a brand has had good acceptance. Second, we’ve always realised the market potential of each city. So, our store sizes in tier II cities were smaller, but when we came to metros we opened big formats. Our store at the Express Avenue mall in Chennai is 80,000 sq.ft, while the one at Ambience Mall, Delhi is 70,000 sq.ft. We also launched stores in tier II cities such as Jalandhar, Mangalore and Kanpur a few months ago, and very soon we will open stores in Ludhiana and Coimbatore. We will open two more stores in Delhi and five more in Mumbai. Though We are not yet present in eastern India, we will foray into that market, too.

The company has seen an 18 per cent same store growth in 2009-10. Did the slowdown affect the company? What was your strategy during the phase?
We grew very fast during the slowdown. The company experienced very strong same store growth. We made a few changes. We introduced some price points that were about 15 per cent lower than what we had earlier in a few select categories; for instance, ladies’ ethnic wear and kidswear.

In order to retain our customers, we also launched a loyalty programme – The Inner Circle – valid at Lifestyle, Splash, Max, Citymax, Home Centre and Spar. We have even analysed that we have 60-70 per cent of repeat customers.

India currently contributes around 10 per cent to the company’s global revenue, and the contribution is expected to grow to 45-50 per cent over the next three years. How do you plan to achieve that goal?
Yes, India is a very important market for the group and Lifestyle as a brand has been accepted very well by the people.

We are expecting a growth of 50-60 per cent this year. We currently have 22 Lifestyle stores, and our target is to open 30 stores by the end of this year. We are also optimistic that we will become Rs.2,000-crore business by FY’11.

How much do you plan to invest on Lifestyle stores in India?
We will be investing approximately Rs.450-500 crore on Lifestyle in the coming three years.

Splash has made a debut in Delhi. Please tell us something about the brand and about its target group of customers?
Splash is for the people who fall in the bracket of 18-30. The brand provides great fashion at an economic price.

We have recently opened Delhi’s first Splash store. It is, in fact, the first one in North India. Currently present inside the Lifestyle store, Splash is spread over an area of 5,000 sq.ft. Depending on its performance, we will open EBOs of Splash in Delhi. The brand has a strong foothold in South India, where we also have two EBOs – one in Bangalore and another in Hyderabad.

What are your expansion plans?
Lifestyle stores currently occupy an impressive retail space of 1.1 million sq.ft across the country. We are on an aggressive expansion drive and plan to launch six to eight new stores by the end of this fiscal.

What’s your take on opening up FDI in multi-brand retail?
FDI and GST are still distinct talks; they are on paper and we really don’t know when it will be put in action. But I am really hopeful that it will be open and flexible really soon. India needs FDI. Retail generates employment, and if FDI and GST routes are open, it can actually take the industry to the next level.

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