It has been a tough one year for the Retail Sector. The onset of COVID-19 and the shutting down of stores and malls indefinitely was a challenge no one had predicted. Millions of retail employees lost their jobs. Retailers were left with little manpower as workers migrated to their native places, and with each day turning up huge financial losses, the situation has been chaotic and worrisome to say the least.
The task for the leaders in this unprecedented crisis was to offer perspective on major concerns, find measures that proved most successful in mitigating the human and business impacts of the virus, and to lift the operational emphasis shifted through the pandemic.
One fashion retail titan who stood tall during the pandemic was Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign. He spoke to IMAGES Retail Bureau and detailed how the team worked steadfastly during and after the lockdown to ensure sales stayed up…
From your brand’s perspective, how did you fare during the lockdown and what was the consumer response in the initial Unlock phase?
As we know, the lockdown really shut everything down completely, and during that period our sales weren’t at their best, but after the unlocking there has been a significant and steady progress upwards, but it is clearly going to be a long haul and we will definitely take a year or so to get back to normal. At the moment we stand between 70-80 percent of what normal is.
What steps did you take to bring the brand firmly on the road to recovery?
It’s been a very difficult and careful job to bring the brand back to recovery. The customer’s expectation was to be very careful with the money they had and expected a lot more promotion and discount driven even in the luxury sector. As we slowly progress back to driving experience and aspiration for a better product and for newness, it will take a while; we’ve seen very good reactions to our new collections.
Did you emphasise more on a digital presence in this time period or did you opt for the traditional retail model with minor adjustments?
The digital presence is obviously one where we’re dependent on in the beginning, but as the physical retail opens up I think the percentage of our turnover is not back to where it was pre-COVID, but it is getting there, slowly offline and online is more than pre-COVID but not as much as in the beginning right after when we opened up.
Does your brand have an Omnichannel / Phygital strategy? If yes, elaborate.
Hidesign has been very strong on e-commerce, as the large number of our customer base is Millennial and working professional. We were doing 30 percent of our business on e-commerce, as we have Omni-partners who support us by building a cohesive system making Hidesign, Omni-capable to give a global view of our inventory across all touch points. Our next step is to provide endless aisle experience to customers walking inside our physical stores enabling to browse a wide range of products and have them shipped to the store or at their homes. We also have introduced the option of contactless home delivery services, keeping in mind the social distancing norms.
How has been the consumer response been like in the festival season? Were you able to match the level of business and profit last year?
The festival season was almost back to last year, what we see is that the festival season is back to what we were last year, but once that season is over there is a drop, December has gone back to being a lower percentage of last year than the festival season.
Has the brand reached pre-COVID levels in terms of sales? If no, how much more time will be required to reach the same?
The brand has not reached pre-COVID levels, in terms of sales one of the biggest reasons is that airports which account for a significant part of the turnover are still suffering very badly. The airports have still barely reached 50 percent of the turnover of last year, whereas the malls stores are around 80 percent. It will take us time to get back on our feet, but we’re almost coming back to normal.
What are your future plans?
Our future plans involve changing the direction of the company in many ways. We will be reducing our presence in the airports, and will be increasing the presence in high street. We will also be moving to larger experiential stores and not only just sales outlets. Omnichannel is going to be a significant part of the business, and the digital and physical will merge into offering the customer a contact at every stage and the ability to communicate at every stage.