The real estate sector has contributed a great deal in building an organised India, a simplified and glorious India. Not just in terms of setting up industries and positioning shops in Central Business Districts of the state, the real estate has a lot to do with the creation and promotion of fashion. In other words, real estate is the root of a fashion tree in India in today’s time.
Anuj Puri, Chairman and Country Head, JLL, modestly handled the discussion regarding the synergy between fashion retailers and real estate developers. He triggered the discussion by aiming Raza Beig, CEO, Splash and ICONIC (Landmark Group, UAE) in anticipation for an answer to the statistic data of occupancy of retail fashion in malls (65– 70 percent) and thereby asked him whether this percentage is a proof that fashion retailers in malls are being cannibalised.
According to Beig, a similar statistical data is prevalent in the Middle East as well. However, in Dubai and Kuwait, due to the high fashion quotient of people, the retailers are motivated to perform better. In the Middle East, there is less constraint on the space and the customers are highly valued.
Parag Dani, Retail Director, Levi’s took the flow of conversation to an all-new level. According to him, if the fashion retail space is broken down into space occupied by each category, the apparel category occupies 5–7 percent of the space, which is certainly not a bad number.
The discussion took an interesting turn when the focus turned on whether entertainment within malls is a boon or bane. According to Siddharth Bindra, MD, Biba Apparels, customers engage in impulse buying in the mall while entertainment is a crucial and an indispensable element of the mall concept. Beig too affirmed Bindra’s thoughts by commenting that entertainment is a traffic driver in malls and it is essential to pull the customers inside the mall.
Jogeshwar Sharma, COO, Select Citywalk, also added to this agenda. According to him, multiplexes add value to the mall space. Although celebrity visits often disrupt the normalcy of operation but multiplexes are a necessity to drive the customers.
On the agenda whether mall owners differentiate between Indian and international brands, all the real estate developers became all the more agile and upright. Both Asheeta Chhabra, Director, Chhabra Triple Five Fashions and Bindra affirmed the allegation that Indian mall owners do differentiate between Indian and international brands.
In this light, it has been observed that the Indian brands are usually pushed up to the first or the second level when the competing brand is an international one. Vishal Mirchandani, CEO, Brigade Enterprises reciprocated by saying that as completion progresses, the line of differentiation gets blurred and hence, malls tend to re-organise their layout.
When questioned over the difficulties faced by mall developers, Dheeraj Dogra, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Shristi Group responded by saying that in today’s times, retailers need to understand that mall developers are not in the business of retailing but selling their space to retail brands. Both parties should be fair and, eventually, the consumer’s happiness should matter above everything else.
If the consumer’s satisfaction is given prime importance, everything will subsequently fall into place. It is imperative to provide the customers with exactly what they require and absolutely no impositions should be made on them. It was confirmed by Dogra that in a mall in Chennai by Shristi Group, the retailers were charged the same rent irrespective of the location of the shop within the mall.
The next aspect of discussion began with Dani, who talked about the preferred location and retail format for brand and store expansion. High street was a clear winner for expansion, according to Dani, for the high street consumer is smarter, they know what they want and they definitely spend more time in a store at a high street than in a mall.
Completely in tune with Dogra, Chhabra too believes that high streets are more profitable for expansion, as the rate of conversion for high streets (65–70 percent) is much higher than malls (35–40 percent) for Chhabra Triple Five.
According to Beig, it is not a very easy ride for international retailers to enter Indian markets. He feels, even though India is a huge market, it has its challenges. The biggest, according to him, is the attitude of fashion retailers. Fashion in this country is not consumer driven. Fashion retailers only think of making money. Fashion is about lifestyle and the Indian fashion industry is yet to master that art. One person cannot bring about this change single-handedly; a collective effort is required by the industry as a whole to bring about this change.
Jogeshwar Sharma was of the opinion that once FDI comes to India, creating adequate space for foreign players will be a major challenge. Allocating space to one brand would mean blocking that area for around 10–15 years. Affordable fashion has a lot of potential in India and retailing experience needs to be carefully blended and synchronised with fashion; otherwise, it will lead to the extinction of brands from the market.
It was highly interesting to know that Seema Kakkar, even after being a part of the fashion retailing business for twenty years, considers herself growing as a retailer. She stated that it is not about the person behind the retail brand but about the customer being catered to. She concluded the discussion by voicing a beautiful quote: “A brand lives many deaths and only then it is born.” The motivation one derives from this discussion is immensely dynamic and significantly moving.