Born with a spirit of helping ‘women everywhere feel more beautiful’, Wacoal, a Japanese luxury lingerie manufacturer, began its life in 1949. Known for its superior fit, quality and exceptional craftsmanship, the brand, today, has metamorphosed into a global leader in the luxury lingerie market, with footprints in over 66 countries and regions including North America, Europe and Asia.
The brand forayed into India in 2015 by partnering with Periwinkle Fashions, the flagship company of Tainwala Group. Periwinkle has been instrumental in promoting the group’s retailing business in India, and its portfolio includes globally renowned luggage brands such as Samsonite, Hartmann and High Sierra, accessories brand, Accessorize, along with in-house premium ladies handbags and shoes brand Lavie.
Wacoal India Pvt. Ltd., is a joint-venture between Periwinkle and Wacoal International Hong Kong Co. Ltd., and is headquartered in Mumbai.
States Chief Executive Officer, Periwinkle Fashions Pvt. Ltd., Sandeep Goenka, “Given our company’s extensive sales knowledge, distribution expertise, and marketing know-how to deal with the Indian market which has original system of custom duty, I feel, we are a perfect partner for Wacoal.”
The innerwear market in India has traditionally been dominated by unorganised players. However, in the last few years, the organised segment has shown promising growth in both men’s and women’s categories. The lingerie market, in particular, has undergone a transformational phase.
Lingerie is no longer regarded as just an undergarment but is worn as a fashionable article of clothing that can be flaunted. Indian women have become selective and give a greater importance to intimate apparel. The raison d’être of their evolution are many, such as the variety in clothing and dress codes, knowledge about lingerie fits and styles, changing social mindset and growing desire to feel good about oneself. What’s more, the well-off like to indulge in luxurious expensive lingerie.
Goenka says, “Lingerie has moved out of the ‘basic necessity’ bracket and is now associated with a feel good factor. Indian women have come out of the shyness cocoon and are eager to experiment with new varieties, styles, colours and brands. This spur in demand has carved out a potential market for lingerie in India.”
As per him, as women’s lingerie is expected to grow faster, brands should broaden their share thereof. However, they also have to vary their product offerings and heighten the fashion quotient.
Starting in June last year, Wacoal India as of now, operates two exclusive stores (EBO), both located in Mumbai. To complement its offline presence, the brand is also building up its presence via the e-commerce route.
Currently available on Myntra, it also plans to launch its own online store. Goenka affirms, “Wacoal stands for ‘quality’, and the response to the brand has been positive in the market. Customers are aware about the brand’s global presence and the uniqueness and are accepting our luxury lingerie brand with ease.”
The brand’s product basket for the Indian market is the same as other international markets. It offers an assortment of bra, panty, shape wear and sleep wear. The bra collection ranges from basic, bralette, minimiser, spacer, seamless, wired, non-wired padded, push up, strapless, sports and occasion wear. The collection of panties ranges from briefs, bikinis, thongs, hipsters, tangas and boyshorts.
“Our core target group is women who are sophisticated, elegant and looking for quality comfort. The age group we are focused on is 25+ and women with a higher disposable income, but we cater to all age groups starting from teenagers,” Goenka apprises.
Wacoal being the only brand to offer bras for teenagers, also has a range of everyday wear with a dash of lace and floral prints for the young, fashion conscious, working women. Its sportswear category is well-designed for women looking at comfortable and supportive bra for their activity routine.
Design for Success
Wacoal India is proceeding on the promise of product supply within the Wacoal Group supply chain management system. The brand’s strength lies in manufacturing based on integration of its research, planning, production and sales processes.
For overseas business operations as well, the group tailors its marketing and product development to each specific country or region, moving to turn out products in order to meet the physiques, tastes and other needs of different women. At Wacoal’s Human Science Research Centre, its research and development (R&D) team has measured the anatomies of over 1,000 women every year over the past half-century.
“The fruits of those efforts are alive and well in our new product development scheme. We consider the single greatest forte of Wacoal is the combination of its ability to engage in such value added craftsmanship and the high quality resulting from that stance,” says Goenka, adding, “Women, who try our products once, do tend to get loyal to the brand due to the comfort of products.”
Talking about the brand’s design and style inspirations, he informs that Wacoal’s designs capture the spirit and epitomise effortless sophistication. The style inspirations are derived from modern femininity, contemporary luxe and uncomplicated florals.
“As the brand prides itself in ‘sophisticated sensuality’, our new collection features beautiful laces, gorgeous embroidery, sleek satins and a basics comfort range that pushes capabilities in technology while also adding a touch of glamour and sensuality,” Goenka informs.
He also shares that the average Wacoal price for these items is Rs 2,500 with overall product lineup ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000. The lace collection has gained popularity amongst occasion wear shoppers.
The recently launched Suhada collection made of non-wired silicon padding to provide prime comfort and defined structure too has received a brilliant response. Significantly, the crowd favourite happens to be its basic mold non-wired bra. With a touch of simplicity, this collection of everyday bras provide maximum support and comfort.
Further, with plans to expand its range within all existing styles, the brand is especially looking to launch more styles in the mold and cut-n-sew category. The focus shall be on mold category comprising of t-shirt bra and fashion styles.
Notwithstanding its high-end positioning, the brand is quite upbeat on its future prospects in India. Goenka underlines that, “The Indian economy ranks No. 7 in the world. The country’s market is one of the most promising retail markets, offering latent appeal to international brands as well, for its rapid growth potential.
It also represents a huge untapped market for lingerie. The growing number of working women and the increased share of western wear in their wardrobe have bolstered the growth. Owing to enhanced exposure, there is an increase in demand for better fits and quality alongside the demand for a wider range of colours, styles and accessories.”
Nevertheless, he also acknowledges that the market throws up some challenges too. As per him, a major challenge arises is posed by the unorganised sector. The women’s innerwear market is at present dominated by many local Indian brands. Women tend to exhibit a strong comfort factor in buying lingerie from regular unorganised local stores, predominantly due to price.
Departmental stores are also popular as they provide range and product displays and also have trial rooms. On the other hand, exclusive brand stores are explored when looking for depth in styles and variety in colours. He also points out that even as the purchase frequency and average spends on innerwear is on the rise, this category is predominantly a ‘planned purchase’ or an ‘occasion-based purchase’ category, among Indian women, who tend to purchase and even splurge around such occasions as weddings, anniversaries, holidays, etc.
Though promotions and offers tend to induce impulse purchases, experimentation in terms of styles is most often done when buying for special occasions; and for daily wear, known styles and brands are preferred.
Explaining how the brand is keeping up with the challenges, Goenka says, “Of late, there has been much innovation in the making of lingerie, and technology has also influenced it. Our fine-quality products are supported by research, and we do customise our products according to the need and demand of the market. We capture the market trends and customer behaviour through comprehensive research and study. Our extensive R&D team is always up to the mark with the market styles. In addition, the distinctive Wacoal approach to consulting services also helps set us apart from our rivals. Appointing engaging store staff is one of our key assets, as they are our sole point of contact to the customers and hence, can understand them better.”
Importantly, Wacoal India’s current focus is on the right product, presence on digital media, in-store promotions, fashion shows and other undertakings. As Goenka said, “Our main marketing tool presently, is expansion through stand-alone stores.”
Following the success of its Mumbai stores, Wacoal is now looking to spread its wings to other Indian cities. Goenka tells more, “We are now heading to Chennai, after which, we are thinking in terms of expanding to Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Chandigarh. We are targeting to have 75 stores (25 own stores + 50 dept. stores) over the next five years in key cities pan India.”
He concluded by saying that they will also tie up with various more external e-commerce sites; however, over the course of time, one cannot overlook the in-house online platform.