India is often referred to as the sleeping giant in footwear terms. With changing lifestyles and increasing affluence, domestic demand for footwear is projected to grow at a faster rate than has been seen.
Currently, India is the second largest footwear producer in the world, with footwear production accounting for approximately 9 per cent of the global annual production – 22 billion pairs as compared to China, which produces over 60 per cent of the global production.
However, a significant shift was observed post liberalisation when lifestyles expanded to foster great value for the sports/active segment and for casualization as a whole. The technological prowess of global sportswear giants enabled them to functionally and fashionably appeal to a young India. Tapping the unlocked potential in Indian market, Woodland entered India in 1992 when the Indian footwear market was largely unorganized and soon became a recognizable name in the adventure and outdoor segment in India.
To know about the brand further, Indiaretailing interviewed Harkirat Singh, who has been MD Woodland since 1989.
Tell us about Woodland’s inception and the brand’s journey so far.
The brand ‘Woodland’ owned by Aero Group was started in Quebec, Canada for making winter boots. We entered into India in 1992 when the Indian footwear market was largely unorganized. We created a new category of specialized ‘outdoor adventure sports’ shoes. Our product positioning was different and we were known as a rugged, outdoor leather shoe brand, the kind usually preferred by adventurists. The youth took a fancy to our shoes and we gradually developed a product line especially for India. Since then we have never looked back. The success of our shoes encouraged us to enter into new segments like clothes, handbags, and the likes. Today we are growing at a pace of 20-25 per cent every year.
What is your market positioning? Describe your brand’s essence and its USP.
Woodland products are strong, meant for tough conditions and have a different style. The brand has its USP of being long-lasting and has been synonymous to adventure sports and outdoors for years now.
Tell us about your product range? Who is your core target audience?
Our wide product range includes apparels, shoes, bags and outdoor equipment’s for men and women. At Woodland, we also make tents; sleeping bags and that entire one can associate with adventure travels and sports.
Our target audience includes urban youth (both men and women) looking out for adventure aged between 17-25 years who are students, college kids and professionals.
What is your pricing strategy?
Realizing that pricing was a major factor in inhibiting sales, we have replaced our earlier prices with more realistic prices in sync with the buying power of our target audience, which is essentially the non-earning youth segment that is looking for stylish and value for money offerings. Our jackets are available in the price range of Rs 5,000 – Rs 35,000 whereas the price range of our boots starts from Rs 5,000.
Please elaborate on any new line extensions or new categories being envisaged in the near future.
We are working on multiple new categories and would be ready to launch in near future.
What’s your overview of the athleisure market in India. How has the customer perception and demand evolved in recent years? What are the challenges? How much will this category contribute to the overall sales?
There has been a significant rise in the demand of athleisure in India recently. The industry has witnessed rapid growth due to the rise in income levels and the entry of foreign players in India after liberalization. Rising trend towards health and wellness among Indian consumers has also contributed to the industry’s growth. Consumers residing in urban areas with healthy lifestyles have started spending more on fitness products now. The industry is expected to continue to post a strong retail value CAGR of 12 per cent over the forecast period with sales expected to touch Rs 540 billion by 2020.
What is the brand’s current spread (number and format of stores) across sales channels – both online and offline?
Currently, we have a chain of over 600 company-owned stores and a presence in over 5,000 multi- retail outlets in the country. Globally, the brand is present in more than 40 countries.
We see a high growth in the online sector and the percentage of our business is growing from e-commerce every year. Currently, we stand at 15 per cent and we expect it to grow to 40 per cent in three to four years.
How many more stores are you planning on opening this year?
We are planning to set up 50 more stores this year, majority of which will be in Tier I, II and III cities. Around 5 WOODS stores will also be opened in different metro cities.
Please share details on your online commerce strategy, including presence on online marketplaces, and your own Omnichannel initiatives. How much does e-commerce contribute to your total sales? Are there any targets for the next fiscal?
We see a higher growth in the online sector but brick-and-mortar retail still accounts for a substantial per cent of sales in the country. There are still a large percentage of consumers who like to physically see and test the products before purchasing. Hence, in-store experiences will remain an integral part of our Omnichannel strategy. At Woodland, we connect with customers across each and every touch point, and provide the resources necessary for them to research and shop for products through multiple channels. Our online sales are growing at a faster rate and we expect it to grow to 40 per cent in three to four years. We plan to concentrate more on a seamless approach through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog, in-store experience and so on.
How much was the business turnover for last year and how much hike are you expecting this fiscal?
Last year, we clocked Rs 1,200 crore in revenues. We have been steadily growing about 20-25 per cent and hoping to achieve the consistent growth in upcoming years as well.
Last year, Woodland entered foreign markets. At present, the brand is present in how many countries and how much does foreign land contribute to the overall revenue? And what are your expansion plans for foreign markets?
We are currently present globally in over 40 countries that include- Hong Kong, China, Australia, Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America, GCC , CIS Countries and more. Also, we have 15 plus stores in overseas markets and have the presence in over 500 multi-retail stores (excluding China).
The company has set up international regional offices and warehouses in Hong Kong, Moscow and Dubai to cater to the requirements of countries in different regions as the business is growing everywhere.
We entered China this year and are planning similar collaborations in some South African countries and Canada.
How is your plan for China faring so far?
We entered China in partnership with Aokang International and are receiving a positive response from the same. Chinese market is good for company’s long-term planning and development. It will help us to grow in the global market.
What are your expansion plans for 2017?
Apart from adding 50 more stores, we are also planning to increase our export volumes this year. The mix of domestic sales versus exports is currently in the ratio of 80:20 and we are consciously trying to increase the contribution of exports and gradually to bring it to 50:50 ratio.
We have recently expanded our business in collaboration with Aokang International to enter China. This partnership will allow us to sell our products in about 5,000 retail outlets in China. We will initially start selling through 150 Aokang outlets. After testing the market with 150 stores, we shall scale up stocks by September and will be available in Aokang stores across China. We are planning similar collaborations in some South African countries and Canada.