Wet Blue-New York, a leading brand in women’s footwear and fashion accessories is in expansion mode. The brand just launched an exclusive brand outlet at the newly-opened Seawoods Grand Central Mall in Navi Mumbai. The 350 sq.ft. boutique store boasts of a trendy collection of women shoes for the Navi Mumbai’s dynamic catchment.
Co-Founder & Director, Wet Blue, Furquan Ali, speaks exclusively to Indiaretailing Bureau about the aggressive expansion plans of his brand, and how the company plans to keep up with evolving consumer behaviour in India.
What was your concept and vision behind the store?
Wet Blue is a fast fashion footwear brand for women catering to Young India. With around 64 per cent of its population in the working age group, India will be the youngest country in the world by 2020. This demographic potential offers India and its economy an unprecedented edge. This young consuming class has new aspirations and is more open to experimenting with fashion brands and modern designs, creating a huge appetite for branded products in the country. This is one of the best times in the fashion footwear space where people are craving to experiment, breaking monotony, following non-traditional fashion, in all re-inventing themselves. Wet Blue bridges this same gap of brand experience for the consumers and hence the entire look and feel of the store concept is built around that.
We have used our space considering our brand philosophy, futuristic design elements and environment-friendly approach. We have an open store concept for customer to have a seamless entry and exit from our store. Our brand colour resonates with youth thus creating a welcome and fresh feeling to the consumers. The lux level (lighting) is kept at a level which is celebratory and inviting and yet not intimidating. We have used lots of recycled cans to give an industrial modern touch, yet are responsible to our environment – something that today’s youth relates to.
Throw some light on your business model?
Wet Blue is one of the fastest growing brands in India which reaches out to its customer seamlessly through both online and offline formats. Our USP lies in offering lifestyle footwear through an innovative combination of contemporary styles with engineered comfort. We reach out to our customer mainly through three different formats:
Exclusive Brand Outlet – Currently we have opened our second store in Seawoods Mall, Navi Mumbai and plan to open four more EBOs by the end of this year.
Shop-in-Shop with Large Format Stores – At present Wet Blue is available in more than 75+ shop-in-shops in more than 25 cities in the country.
E-commerce – Besides our own portal, we are available across all the top fashion portals like Amazon, Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart and Abof in India.
Malls or high-streets – what is your preferred location? Explain your location strategy.
We have captured both the formats strategically for our store expansions as per our business plan. Fortunately, our in-depth space planning and understanding gives us an edge in identifying the right locations across the nation.
Given a choice, a mall certainly over-powers a high-street location because of many practical reasons. Except the occupancy cost, a mall brings a certain amount of certainty towards business, convenience for shoppers and overall experience of shopping, which is missing in high street. But, there are some great high street locations which can’t be overlooked only from the business point of view. Hence, we have tried to keep a balance between high streets and mall space. Overall, our simple strategy is to ensure that our brand criteria must be met. For a mall space, we zero in on those assets like right tenant mix, premium catchment, good footfall and great experience to customers. The strategy is a similar when choosing a high street location.
How much are you planning to spend to aid your expansion plans?
We have a well strategized fund usage plan over the next five years on defined areas. We will be investing over Rs 50 crore at different stages. A large portion of this will be used for inventory holding vis-a-vis our expansion. Along with this, we will invest in strengthening our research and development activities, technology and infrastructure upgradation to achieve operational excellence and attracting right talent to build a great team.
Please share your revenue numbers for the last fiscal and targets for the current fiscal.
Last fiscal we achieved over Rs 12 crore in topline and we target to grow over 200 per cent this year.
How do you keep up with evolving consumer behaviour?
This is where we differentiate majorly from the competition. Our vision solely concentrates on offering latest trends in the fastest possible time because consumer taste and behavior is changing at lightning speed. Thanks to digitization and the ever-changing fashion sensibility among customers, we have no other way but to be ahead of the time, hence we have focused our efforts on three important aspects – product, services and communication.
Apart from making a superior product, we give our utmost attention in creating and offering fashion which is relevant to today’s woman. There is a dedicated team that focusses on identifying, developing and offering current trends with global sensibility.
The second aspect which determines conversion possibility is services. We give serious attention in serving our customer across all formats by different tools and processes.
The third most important part is to engage and communicate with the consumers. Digital and social media marketing has emerged as one of the strongest tools to connect with consumers. This new age technology has not only brought us closer to them, but has also given a lot of insight into consumer behavior and pattern, that leads to decision making. We use this medium to stay relevant.
Please throw some light on the marketing and promotion behavior of your brand.
Marketing and promotion is one of the most important tools to communicate your brand philosophy to your consumers. Our idea is to fulfill fashion needs that go well beyond age. Our key advertising message is to create fashion married with engineered comfort, something that we find missing in today’s footwear space and our brand marketing focus will be highly around this.
Though we have a 360-degree approach in our marketing initiative, we will park majority of our marketing budgets in BTL initiatives. This form of marketing initiative allows targeted and customer centric communications. It also creates quantitative results and ROI metrics, which is important for us to measure value of our campaign.
What is your pricing strategy?
Wet Blue is high on fashion quotient with engineered comfort at an affordable price. We are extremely sensitive in making superior product at affordable price. The product ranges between entry level price points to premium level price points.
Flats – Rs 999 – Rs 2,099
Wedges – Rs 1,599 – to Rs 2,499
Heels – Rs 1,599 – Rs 2,499
Ballerinas – Rs 1,599 – Rs 2,299
Pumps – Rs 1,899 – Rs 2,999
Loafers and Mocassins – Rs 1,699 – Rs 2,299
Please throw some light on the expansion plans of Wet Blue in India? Any plans to explore new cities.
We are planning a pan India footprint with EBO’s in key markets along with adding retail touch points with leading MBO’s in the country. Apart from targeting the metros, tier 2 cities will be our major focus of development and expansion. We have plans to open 40 EBO’s & over 500+ retail touch points in the SIS format across the country by the end of FY21. We have a very promising and robust plan for FY17-18. We will open 4 EBOs in Mumbai and Delhi to start with, along with 200 doors in the SIS format with leading MBO chains. Apart from this, we are appointing distributors across the country for a strong penetration in tier 2 cities as well.
We are already going strong in the E-commerce format by joining hands with all leading portals like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong & ABOF currently and have plans to expand the portfolio by joining hands with potential players in future.
Due to the surging demand for branded fashion footwear from across the country, it becomes more important for us to give equal commitment and focus to each region. While the demographical change will make India the youngest country in the world in the next five years, this will also witness a whole floating population of more and more working people settling in smarter cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Baroda, Pune, Chandigarh, etc. This is population outside the four metros, and hence, would emerge as one of the strongest markets for brand penetration.
At present, our priority is to build and strengthen the northern and western Indian markets due to the consumer fitment vis-à-vis our product and brand positioning. However, it’s been a very interesting observation for us to see a huge demand coming from north eastern, eastern and some parts of southern India as well.
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