Skipper Furnishings, founded in 1986 by Kamlesh Agarwal in Kolkata, has become one of India’s most loved furnishing brands over the years. Skipper started as a single store carrying just fabrics for drapery and upholstery, but over the years they added many other products to their portfolio (wallpaper, wooden flooring, carpets, mattress, bed linen, blinds, and drapery rods). They also expanded their presence throughout the country and now have stores in various cities. Skipper products are also available in leading large format stores, such as Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, HomeTown, etc. They also have a strong online presence, wherein they have tied up with some of the leading online portals in the industry like Jabong, Flipkart, Amazon, FabFurnish, Pepperfry, and many more. In a brief conversation with IMAGES Retail, Tanay Agarwal reveals about the brand presence and the future course of actions they are considering for better growth prospects.
Q. Please tell us about the number of stores that Skipper has.
Skipper Furnishings has 20 stores located in cities like Kolkata, Siliguri, Guwahati, Dimapur, Jorhat, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Vizag, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kanpur, Nagpur, Raipur, and Bilaspur.
Q. How big is the market for organised home furnishing brands what is the growth rate?
Home furnishing is a highly unorganised sector with few organised players. I believe only 10 per cent of the total home furnishing segment belongs to the organised sector. However, there has been a steady rise in the number of brands coming in recently while several players trying desperately to organise the sector.
With a significant development in the housing sector, there has been a strong growth in the home furnishings business, and the growth rate is estimated to be between 20 and 25 per cent.
Q.Please tell us about some of the trends that you have been witnessing in the home furnishing industry in India.
What are the factors propelling the industry’s growth?
Until recently, home furnishing in India was treated as a luxury, fit for the affluent class of society. However, with the growing urban population and an increase in awareness for having better furnishing for the home, the segment is now treated more as a necessity. We have also seen a tremendous change in the social life of people, which necessitates having a well decorated home. These factors influenced people to decorate their homes with aesthetically appealing products. We have seen a rise in the number of people going for bold interiors, which earlier was a taboo in Indian homes. These factors are all leading to a growth and boom in the home furnishing sector and creating a very strong future for the same.
Q. What is your market positioning and customer profile?
We have a wide range of products in all categories and hence we cater to middle, upper-middle class and to the ‘who’s who’ of society. Almost anyone who enters our store is sure to find a product to suit their requirements as well as their budget. This is the primary reason why our conversion rate is higher compared to most other retail formats.
Q. Please provide details about the product range available at your stores.
Skipper Furnishings deals in curtains, upholstery, wall coverings, wooden flooring, blinds, carpets, drapery rods, and bed and bath products.
Q. What is the location strategy for your stores – malls or high streets?
We largely focus on high streets as we are into customised home furnishing and do not have window shoppers or random walk-in clients. Our customers mostly have a pre-determined mind-set of what they want and would visit us once a year or so only, when they are refurnishing the home. However, with a strong growth in the sale of readymade curtains as well as bed and bath products, we have started opening stores in malls as well.
Q. What is the average size of your stores?
Our stores are based on around 2,000 to 3,000 sq.ft. area.
Q. What is your expansion strategy to open more stores?
We are planning to open 20 stores for Skipper Furnishings within the financial year 2015–16.
Q. Are there any interesting concepts or innovations that you have introduced in the recent past?
Our business concept is quite interesting. Our franchisees do not need to carry any inventory; they just need to invest on samples and once the customer places the order, we ship it to them. This leads to low inventory investment at per store level and thus, we are able to service a huge number of stores with the same inventory at our warehouse. This way we also obtain a faster ROI. We have also started customisation of fabrics so that customers can get exactly what they want at our stores.
Q. How focused are you on e-commerce and what is your strategy on that front?
We have been selling on all large e-commerce portals for a while. Home furnishing as a category was very small for e-commerce players, and we have been one of the brands which started selling from the very beginning. However, we see a huge potential in the coming days for home furnishings in e-commerce and have planned to invest strongly to promote our brand through the larger portals as well as our own portal.