Raymond has launched its flagship store Raymond Ceremonial at Kemps Corner, Mumbai. The store speaks about innovation right from its architecture to its design, visual merchandising to the hospitality offered, to the ethnic wear range which is different from what is usually seen in this category.
In a tell-all chat, Bidyut Bhanjdeo, Brand Director, Raymond Ethnix & Next Look told IMAGES Business of Fashion all about the store, the progress and future prospects of the brand. Excerpts from the interview…
Tell us about the retail mapping of the brand Ethnix?
Raymond had two Ethnix stores and now has launched Raymond Ceremonial in Kemps Corner, Mumbai. The newly-launched store will help to create a flagship identity for our ethnic wear products.
Kemps Corner is a premium location and goes very well with the DNA of the brand and the clientele which we get here. The store spans across 2,300 sq. ft. This is our first Raymond Ceremonial store and going forward, we will start opening more in metropolitan cities.
Apart from this, two more Ethnix stores are in the fit-out stages and are expected to be launched by mid-March. The target is to take the total store count to 6 by this fiscal year end and then gauging the response, launch another 30-40 stores.
What products do you offer and how are you different from your competitors?
One has to understand that 85 percent of the ethnic wear market is still unorganised. However, the game is slowly changing from unorganised to organised. Being a corporate player, Raymond asks vendors to develop fabric six months in advance. Once we develop a particular jacquard or a silk fabric, we take the complete ownership of the fabric and we do not let the vendor sell it to anyone else. This is an agreement we have with our vendors.
There are a lot of fabrics which we have developed which look very different from what is usually available in the market. We are also very different in the kind of embellishments used on our garments.
Aside from this, we use very toned down colour palettes including mint, cream and peach, which are again very different from what is usually available in the market. We also play a lot with prints in our range unlike other brands who avoid prints in ethnic wear. We do a lot of digital prints for younger clients who want to look edgy in a ceremony. These all are a defined set of innovations which differentiate us with any other player in the market today.
What are your product expansion plans?
Ethnic wear is considered a very seasonal product linked to marriages and other special occasions. A very interesting product expansion we did recently was creating something called ‘Smart Ethnics’, casual wear with an ethnic touch. The collection comprises of short kurtas with uneven cuts, bandis which are very soft, stoles sourced from handloom clusters, trousers and harem pants, a bit of indigo denim kurtas etc. These have started doing very well for the brand. This approach will bring in a lot of youngsters into our store and this will make our business very non-seasonal.
Tell us about the architecture of the store and the elements which stand out as its USP?
When we started off, we decided to keep the brand very classy and sophisticated, which is what ethnic wear is all about. We never wanted to keep elements in the store which are predictable. The Raymond Ceremonial store is a minimalistic in nature, with a touch of class and modernity. Eighty percent of the material used in the store can be recycled – a design innovation we are proud of.
What are the technology innovations that are being introduced at the store?
Ethnic wear as a business is very different from other apparel categories. The kind of purchases which happen are planned in nature and the customer is ready to wait for 15 to 20 days if he does not find his size in the store. If, for instance, one does not find his size of sherwani in the store, he can place an order for the same. For this we have created an online software system, where the moment a request is placed in a store, the head office gets an alert and within a period of 8 to 10 days, the sherwani is manufactured and sent to the store, fulfilling the request of a particular client. This tech innovation helps cut lead time in delivering a product.
What will be the role of lighting at the new store?
Ethnic wear stores require warm, white lighting which is used in Raymond Ceremonial store. The idea is to make the garment stand out and showcase the elements of design.
What kind of impact do you think Visual Merchandising will play in the new store?
We have created high-points inside the store which have a cluster of bust forms and mannequins with a modern outlook, so as to move away from the traditional dressed up mannequin look and instead go in for a cluster of colour blocks which look more elegant.
Share details on the innovation in terms of customer experience at your store?
This store has a mezzanine floor which has been converted into a lounge. This was created since ethnic wear purchases take around 2-3 hours, entire families are involved, and they need a place to sit and check out our collections.
Also, while the groom is trying on his outfits, his family needs to be engaged. We engage them by playing Indian music which is very ethos-based, use the best perfumes in the store, and offer extraordinary hospitality to our customers. Overall this creates a very warm feeling for the whole family. The groom is delighted with these offerings which sets him in a positive mood.
The sales staff is trained to show the groom accessories – safas (turbans), necklaces and dupattas – to the groom once he selects his garments and increase sales by 20 percent. In the end, the idea is to provide excellent customer service and improve sales along with it.