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Roopam: Winning with Winter Wear

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Roopam is one retailer that sells winterwear 365 days a year. Viren Shah, Owner of the mumbai-based retail store shares its journey with Images Business of Fashion.

The sun loves Mumbai! Except for a few days when there is monsoon magic in Mumbai, the weather in the city more or less is hot and humid. Winters in Mumbai are not chilly enough hence spotting winter wear in the city is not something residents here can boast of. But there is a store in Mumbai that sells winter wear all year round and this has been its major USP since inception. We are talking of a heritage retail store in Mumbai called Roopam.

A visit to Mumbai’s Dhobi Talao market and by no means can one miss the massive 7-storey retail store – Roopam. Recently refurbished to attract even the most elusive eye, the store literally stands out with its white exterior and remarkable frontage. Where the ground floor is dedicated toys, food and other household sundries, the other floors host a collection of kids, men’s and women’s wear – from casuals to formal and also designer wear.

What catches our attention to the store this issue is the fl oor that has been attracting customers looking for winter wear even during summers and this includes the entire range – from sweaters to coats to gloves and even thermals. Viren Shah, owner – Roopam takes us to the yesteryears, “Roopam is the brainchild of my father – Raichand Korshi Shah. He started the brand borrowing money from my grandfather. This was in 1968. The name has its origin in Sanskrit, meaning beautiful image.”

Shah’s grandfather had come to the island city at the age of eight. He worked for a local store before setting up a brand for stationary, files and notebooks under the name ‘Prabhat’. With a much deserved sense of pride, Shah adds, “Roopam began with as a 500 sq.ft. store and since my involvement it gradually expanded. Today we occupy a space of 30,000 sq. ft. across seven levels.”

As the brand grew, it expanded its product category as well to include a host of other merchandize other than apparels. Says Shah, “Well this decision was of my younger brother – Jiten Shah who felt that with a space of about 30,000 sq.ft we could be a one stop destination for everything under a single roof. It has been seven years since we have diversified our product category. Besides our wedding and woolen specialty for family wear, today we have a wide range in the category of imitation jewellery, night wears, kitchen-wear, new born babies and accessories. In fact, our toy department is one of the largest in Mumbai.” The brand managed to carve a niche for itself with an international clientele through their advertisements in Hindi movie cassettes which went all over the world.

Starting Out with Woolen Wear

Even prior to the onset of retail revolution in India, Roopam was a store that remained on the must-visit lists of NRIs visiting the city for their shopping. The store back then was one of the few stores that housed niche and exquisite collection. The annual sale period was a time when the store would be jam packed with patrons in a scene that would merit for nothing less than a stampede.

According to Viren Shah, the store managed to create a loyal set of customers for itself was primarily because of the advertising campaigns it had which were way ahead of the times in terms of the international locations where they are shot at and also because of the availability of winter wear all year round.

Shah shares, “We started selling woolens at a time when only few shops in Mumbai stocked winter wear and that would again be only during the winter season. But we went ahead to launch a campaign for tourists traveling to destinations where the weather was always cold – either for business or leisure. We went ahead to dedicate an entire fl oor to stock and sell woolens and this also includes woolens for places that have a minus zero degree temperature.”

This decision has worked wonders for the store as today, according to Viren Shah, more than 30 per cent of their revenues is generated from winter wear alone. The thermals available at Roopam are specially made from a factory in Ludhiana and most of their woolens are sourced from Ludhiana and Jalandhar though now there has been a lot of stock being sourced from China as well.

Shah adds, “All our thermals, woolen accessories and leather overcoats with woolen linings have Roopam labels and these are specially made for us by our counterparts in Ludhiana.”

Beating the Odds

Ask Viren about the winter woes in Mumbai and what makes him still indulge in having a dedicated floor for woolens and pat comes the reply, “Our target customer is the Indian traveling abroad and students who enroll themselves in international schools, college and universities. I can confidently say that families traveling abroad for vacation during summer months in India come to our store for their winter wear shopping.”

Citing a milestone year for the store, Shah shares, “During 1990, the temperature in Mumbai dropped down to about 4 degrees and that is when for a fortnight we sold winter wear across all our floors.”

The retail revolution in India has not just brought in more and more brands and shopping formats to the country but it has in a way also changed the way we dress. Winter wear has been no exception to this. The dynamics of winter wear have moved away from it being a necessity to have a shield against the cold weather. As Viren Shah shares, “Today winter wear is getting more and more westernized. From dresses to jackets, the options available for one to look fashionable even during days when the temperature is below minus degree are aplenty!”

Based on the revenues and patrons that Roopam has managed to generate for its winter wear offering, can it be safely said that only winter wear is a good retail option to get into? “No, not really. The investment is huge and also you cannot just have a corner of your store offering winter wear. With the changing fashion dynamics in India, it becomes necessary to treat winter wear as a category just as we have men’s, women and kids wear. The rentals – be it in Mumbai or any other part of the country are not too conducive for this. We have managed to create a niche for ourselves only after a dedicated effort.”

Survival Mantra at any given point of time, be it even during the sale period when the store is choc-o-block, the staff at Roopam ensures that no customer is left unattended. From helping you fi nd the right garment to also generously sharing suggestions on what would look good on him / her, the customer is well taken care of at the store. The winter wear section alone has a staff of 15 people and each one is trained to ask the minutest of question related on the purpose of buying winter wear – is it for holiday, business, travel locations etc.

Shah proudly claims that the success of Roopam is due to the strings still being held by the family. He says, “With our sales service, brand, goodwill and specialty department, we have kept the momentum going in spite of the stiff competition from other brands in the malls and on the high street. But I can confidently say that for woolens, traditional wear, toys and newborns, we are way ahead of others.”

Commenting on the changing market dynamics and consumer preferences, Shah says, “Today, consumers do not want to waste time in purchase, they know their taste well in advance and do not bargain. Growth of retail in India is inevitable. Almost all nternational brands are available in . But somehow I do feel that the pace we have set for ourselves is fast and we are aping the West thus ignoring the ground reality and peculiarity of the Indian market and consumers. The issues that we face in the country include lack of infrastructure, cost of overheads and margin. We need to keep in mind that the buyer in India and the Indian conditions are not similar to what we find in the Western countries.”