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Unwrapping the Archies’ reinvention plan

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Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

From tie-ups with q-commerce players and special gift hampers in partnership with category leaders to opening stores in the Middle East, here’s what India’s oldest gifting company Archies has on the cards tohelp revive its past glory…

New Delhi: Archies—a name that the Gen Y and millennials from India would instantly connect with. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, if you had to say something to someone, chances are that you did it with an Archies card. Be it a birthday, an anniversary or even a break-up, Archies had a card and an appropriate gift for every occasion.

“Loved the unforgettable experience of discovering a novel gift when browsing in the store – a cute mug, a framed witty quote or a unique guitar shaped CD stand to impress someone,” said Surender Gnanaolivu, a retail experience design curator and an Archies’ customer.

The Archies Era

The brand was the favourite hangout for youngsters who wanted to express or impress with the help of a present, especially around the Valentine’s Day.

“You could say Archies was instrumental in introducing Indians to concepts like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with their cards and innovative gifts,” said architect Anuja Pradhan, an Archies customer.

Started by Anil Moolchandani in 1979, Archies Ltd., shot to fame because of its Greeting cards, which it launched in 1980.

“From cute little teddy bears professing undying devotion to sassy cats with sarcastic wit, there was an Archies card for every personality and occasion,” said Ranjit Satyanath, chief technology officer at Hippo Stores an old Archies’ customer.

The first Archies Gallery came up at Delhi’s Kamala Nagar in 1987 stocking a lot more than greeting cards—soft toys, figurines, stationery, chocolates and perfumes among other articles.

“Walking into an Archies store was like entering a wonderland of love and friendship,” said Satyanath.

In 2007, Archies sold about 1 crore physical greeting cards. At the time, Archies commanded over 50% share of the approximately Rs 200 crore Indian greeting card market. It had an annual turnover of Rs 120 crore and was present in 480 outlets across the country, out of which 380 were franchised.

As the gifting trend caught on in the country, the company expanded its presence through a mix of company-owned and franchised outlets.

Over the years Archies launched its own website, collaborated with foreign players and launched a new format called Desi Archies that sold Indian handicrafts and many other initiatives.

The Desi Archies range
The Desi Archies range

It introduced musical cards and cards in vernacular languages and also expanded into new categories including baby products through a collaboration with a US-based accessories maker. The company also briefly dabbled in music albums through Archies Music.

Then the pandemic hit. The company had to shut half its stores, bringing the count from 250 company-owned stores to 125. Today, Archies has 125 company-owned and an equal number of franchisee stores. During fiscal year (FY) 2020-2021, its turnover slipped to Rs 77, down significantly from the previous year’s Rs 101 crore. The effect of the pandemic lasted a couple of years. In FY 2022, Archies Ltd. recorded a loss of Rs 405.84 lakh.

This only pushed the team to innovate, make course corrections and diversify. “At the end of the day, every company needs to diversify and innovate to survive in this competitive market and the world around us,” said Varun Moolchandani, executive director of the company, who has been focusing his energies on recreating the Archies aura.

Reinventing Archies

Under his leadership, the company focused more on expanding its corporate gifting portfolio and entered into strategic partnerships which included collaborating with leading marketplaces Amazon and Flipkart.

“About 50% of our online business comes from marketplaces, and the remaining from our website,” shared the second-generation entrepreneur, adding that online contributes just 5% to its total business while the rest comes from its stores.

Archies has also entered into tie-ups with leading brands in several categories. “We have collaborations with leading players in chocolates which include Ferrero Rocher, Lindt, and now Cadbury’s; leading players in pens such as Pierre Cardin, Luxor and Submarine. Similarly, for skincare, we have a tie-up with MamaEarth and now Mcaffiene with whom we create exclusive gift sets,” shared Moolchandani.

While the brand has tie-ups with Ajmal and Debonaire for perfumes, it is also in talks with a leading player in the home décor segment. “These third-party products add newness to our stores,” said Moolchandani.

Perhaps it’s the efforts or the resumption of non-discretionary spending, things have started looking up for the company.

In the financial year 2023, revenues increased by 10.14%, total income increased by 14% and Archies ended the year on a positive note with a profit of Rs 111.47 lakhs.

Today, the company continues exploring new channels. In April 2023, Archies became available on Blinkit with its entire range of products. It will also be available on Swiggy Instamart soon.

“Archies is going to expand more into quick commerce, with 10 minutes-20 minutes deliveries,” said Moolchandani. The service will be available in Delhi NCR to begin with, followed by the rest of the north before being rolled out nationwide.

What’s on the cards

Expansion features prominently in the Archies’ short-term plan. “The current focus is on opening more stores in B and C towns in North India. We are also exploring an expansion in South India, mainly the metros as for B and C towns in the region, there’s online,” shared Moolchandani who added that the company is now concentrating on highstreets rather than malls for its new stores.

“Typically, our store size is around 400 to 600 sq. ft. and it is more feasible to open stores on high streets because they don’t have common area maintenance (CAM). However, we’re not getting out of malls; we will only be where we can sustain ourselves,” he said.

“We should be opening about 25 to 30 stores by the end of March 2024. Plus, we are more enthusiastic about our franchise and are looking at opening between 15 and 25 franchised stores,” he added.

Archies is also planning to take the business international.

“We are identifying new markets where we can launch our brand Archies—through stores as well as distribution,” shared Moolchandani.

“We are looking for exclusive channel partners in the Middle East, starting with UAE, then GCC countries because the Asian community in the region is aware of our brand; most of them have grown with our brand, so the brand recall is already there,” he added.

In international markets, Archies will have an exclusive channel partner who will open stores and appoint franchisees.

“We are talking to channel partners in Africa well, which is a huge market,” he said.

Apart from international expansion, there are a few more cards up Moolchandani’s sleeve, which includes a marketing campaign targeted at Gen Z, details of which will be revealed to the world by the end of July or latest by the first week of August.

“There’s a lot going on at Archies right now, most of which will start taking shape in 2024. Until then, you’ll have to wait to unwrap the mystery,” Moolchandani concluded.

 

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