A hybrid model has worked wonders for Firstcry.com, Asia’s largest online baby and kid’s store. Incepted in 2010, it has grown rapidly, both online and offline. With over 100 stores in its physical store network, the company plans to hit the 400 stores mark by 2017.
Success has smiled on Firstcry, an online baby and kid’s store, ever since it came into being in 2010. A brain child of Supam Maheshwari and Amitava Saha, it started off as an e-commerce venture but soon switched to a hybrid model (online-offline), and forayed into physical retail. The strategy has proven to be a big boon for the concept, and it has grown by leaps and bounds.
Supam Maheshwari, Co-Founder and CEO, Firstcry, states, “We are an online and offl ine brand providing range of products for babies, kids and moms. The concept was born out of a desire to solve Indian parents’ problem of not having access to the best brands and products for their babies and kids. Initially an online concept, eventually we forayed into physical retail as well.” Within four years of founding, Firstcry has emerged as the clear leader in its niche.
Today, Firstcry is heralded as the foremost online portal in its segment. “We are Asia’s largest online portal for baby and kids products. In offl ine, we have over 100 retail stores pan India spread across 82 cities”, informs Maheshwari. Operating under the brand name of “Firstcry.com”, the outlets are mostly situated in tier -I and -II cities. The company is now looking to replicate the on-line leadership status offline too.
Dressed to Success
Significantly, apparel and accessories are the dominant product categories at Firstcry across both formats. Maheswari explicates, “The kidswear industry in India is massive but is largely unorganised. However, this is gradually changing. Owing to factors such as the rise of Indian middle class, growing affl uence resulting in higher discretionary spending, enhanced preference for brands, and alike, the wallet share of branded apparel has increased substantially.
Even in the case of children, parents have become quite brand-conscious both in terms of label and the store while shopping for their younger ones. In consequence, the kids’ apparel market too is on a fast track growth.” Such a scenario offers a great scope of development to a brand like Firstcry.
Brands and products With an inventory comprising 70,000 plus items from over 700 top international and Indian brands, Firstcry offers an extensive range of infants and kids-centric brands and products in categories as in clothing; footwear; toys, learning and entertainment; diapering, care and feeding; baby gear and nursery; and moms and maternity.
Giving an insight into its apparel portfolio, Maheshwari elucidates, “In apparel and accessories, Firstcry has almost 50,000 items in offing from all leading brands such as Gini & Jony, Toffee House, Carter’s, Disney, Nauti Nati, Shopper Tree, Beebay, Little Kangaroos, Pepermint, Palm Tree to name a few.”
Moreover, the company has also come up with its own private brand in kidswear named Babyhug. With a pricing slightly above the mass market, they strive and cover as wide a spectrum as possible. Referring to the success of its own private label, Maheshwari affirms that the power of a quality, affordable brand cannot be underestimated.
Tapping the Trend
The growth of kids’ segment is no longer solely limited to large urban centres. People in smaller cities and towns are also becoming more aware about fashion and grooming. Agrees Maheshwari, “The segment’s growth and trends are gradually percolating into tier -II and -III cities as well. Considering the burgeoning demand for kidswear, brands are also focusing on extending their product portfolio.” As such even small cities are on the company’s expansion radar.
In recent years, the e-commerce sector in India has been grown multi-fold. Of the country’s entire retail trade, the online segment presently accounts for five percent. As per experts, online baby and kid segment, in particular, presents vast untapped potential waiting to be explored. Add to that, fashion has emerged as the forerunner category. Firstcry has also witnessed the same.
Confirms Maheswari, “Undoubtedly, fashion is one of top two categories not only at Firstcry but also with other leading e-tailers in kids’ segment. Going by its performance, we expect it to become the largest category in the next two years.” Riding on the fashion wave, Firstcry brick stores majorly focus on clothing and related accessories. For offl ine channel, the company has opted for franchising. Acting as wholesaler, the company distributes to the partner franchisees who sell them at their end. As such, franchisees need not work with external vendors.
Further, in its effort to keep balance between offl ine and online channels, Firstcry ensures that the customer has a seamless experience whether they shop online or in one of its outlets. Notably, the company follows same-price policy across both channels. Claims Maheshwari, “None of stores in India offer same price for the products they retail in both online and offline channel, but we are doing that. So, I believe that ours is one of the best integrated working models today in the country.”
To enhance the customer experience Firstcry is focusing on constant innovation, improvement and value addition. Of late, it has introduced “32” Digital Kiosk” which is actually a large touch screen installed in its physical stores that allows users to browse the extended range of products available online variety, and order the same to be delivered at the store.
Maheshwari is hopeful that with online apparel retailers rolling out innovative solutions like try and buy, standardised size charts, and other online tools that help assess the fitment better, the experience of buying online will come closer to the offline. He also feels that as the variety and SKUs available in web store is higher than in physical store, the buying preferences will slowly shift in the favour of former.
Challenges & Competition
Kidswear market, as of now, has very few organised players. There are not many manufacturers that produce quality products in affordable segment, rues Maheshwari. Even as the company mainly deals in prominent brands, it is not hesitant to partner with relatively lesser known brands that produce quality goods. Sensing a gap in kidswear space, the company is strongly pushing its in-house label BabyHug.
“We have our own design studios which design and plan complete collection and then we get it manufactured by leading contract manufacturers. Today our own private label contributes to a significant portion of kidswear sales both in online as well as offline”, shares Maheshwari.
As regards competition, he says that the entry of more players would only help build the market. But he is concerned about fakes market which, according to him, is the corollary of the lacunae of distributions system and broken supply chains. “On our part, we want to make Firstcry easily accessible to every parent through online, mobile and offline stores,” he adds that the company is creating its own last mile logistics network to ensure fast and dependable delivery solution to its customers. This would also help combat the menace of fakes.
Marketing & Promotions
The company has a larger online presence. As such, its marketing strategy is heavily dependent on digital marketing. The communication is such that people become aware of both presences (online and offl ine). Furthermore, promotions are mainly targeted at mothers, as they are the ones who mostly make purchases for their children. Additionally, the company runs a unique customer outreach program.
Maheshwari describes, “We have a program called Firstcry Gift Box to engage parents. We sent a customised box to new mothers at various hospitals across the country to apprise them about our concept. The box contains information on stores and samples of products. Additionally, gift coupons are also offered to them that be redeemed either online or offl ine.” The program enables the company to reach out to around 1 million parents every year.
What’s in store?
We want to be the undisputed leaders in baby and kids’products market in India, declares Maheshwari. With an aim to make Firstcry as ‘the ultimate destination’ for kids’ shopping, the retailer plans to grow vigorously in both online and offline. Anticipating to grow more than 100 percent every year, FirstCry, plans to have 400 stores by 2017.