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Dockers Serious About India

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Sandeep Kumar
Sandeep Kumar
A multimedia journalist with over eleven years of experience in print and digital media, Sandeep Kumar is assistant editor with Images Group. Books, retail, sports and cinema are an inextricable part of his life.

Dockers aims to open  five stores in India in the first year of operations and 20 stores in about two years in partnership with Ace Turtle

New Delhi: California-based casualwear brand Dockers plans to open five stores in the first year of its operation in the country and 20 stores in about two years, a senior executive told IndiaRetailing.

The brand has re-entered India in partnership with Ace Turtle, the exclusive licensee of international brands Lee, Wrangler, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Babies ‘R’ Us in India. The first store under the partnership—spread across 1000 sq. ft.—was recently launched at Pacific Mall, Netaji Subhash Place (NSP), New Delhi.

This is the third stint of the semi-formal khaki brand in the country, which is a division of American company Levi-Strauss. The brand entered India in 2000 and exited the market in 2004. It re-entered India again in 2005 and exited in 2009 due to the consumer’s deviation from the khaki category to denim wear and formal pants with blended fabrics.

IndiaRetailing spoke to Berry Singh, COO & Co-founder, of Ace Turtle, the brand’s India partner, to delve into the company’s strategy around re-entry into the Indian market.

What was the idea behind re-entering the Indian market?

For Dockers, one of the biggest strategies is international expansion and India, one of the key markets, is a perfect place for an international brand to expand its presence. Secondly, post-pandemic, there has been a casualisation’ as far as formal dressing is concerned. The product strategy of the brand entirely fits with this change in trend, making it the right time to enter India.

What will be the brand’s strategy this time?

The brand is entering India with a three-pronged strategy. The first point is to bring an international look and feel into the market as consumerism is currently on the rise here. The second point is from the product perspective as the product has a lot to offer both in terms of quality and technology. Dockers’ trousers are more flexible, four-way stretched and stain-repellent as well. The third is the omnichannel retail experience, which will be a key factor this time.

Whether it is online or offline, everything gets integrated, but brands are built through retail empowerment and that’s a big focus for us.

And what is the role of Ace Turtle in this?

Ace Turtle is the licensee of Dockers in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India being a pivotal market, we are based over here. We started in 2013, as a technology-focused platform, offering a full stack of e-commerce operations from listing, payments, customer relationship management, and logistics to offline retail brands.

During the pandemic, we pivoted to start procuring brand licenses. Being a technology-native company, we understood the whole online offline play strategically.

For Dockers, our objective is to grow the brand, through our platform Rubicon by using our omnichannel expertise through channels. Our job is to ensure a seamless experience for the consumer, whether at the store or online.

What is going to be the competitive landscape for the brand?

We are looking at different brands which are in the casual wear segment and also those in the workwear segment.

However, the advantage we have is in terms of newness in the market. We feel that the Indian consumer has evolved and is going after value-shopping. Today, consumers are serious in their approach to buying good quality and value-added brands and this is exactly what we are offering them.

Tell us about the expansion plans.

In the first year of operations, we are looking at opening five stores and in about two odd years, the target is to reach 20 stores. The brand will also be available on other offline and online channels.

Which geographies are you looking at?

We are looking at metros and tier 1 cities to start with as we believe these markets help in establishing a brand. We aim to enter the tier 2 cities and beyond, two years from now.

A part of our merchandise is currently imported, but going forward, most of the manufacturing will happen in India, which means we will be closer to the consumer from a design perspective as well.

We will also be closer from the distribution and supply chain standpoint to give trends to consumers, understand what their needs are and supply that product category.

Will the stores be in shopping centres or high streets?

It will be a combination of malls and high streets. The first store is in a mall, and wherever there is quality real estate space available, there are good adjacencies. This is a place where we think our consumer is going. That’s where we plan to open our stores.

Let’s talk about the tech innovation at the stores.

The store has electronic shelf labels with QR codes, which, when scanned, directs customers to the website, where they can style the product and check the other product features.

The store also has smart cameras that identify customers entering the store by age, gender, and shopping behaviour. With the help of technology, we are trying to remove a lot of manual operational tasks done by back-end teams. We also have an app called Connect and the entire retail operations are done through it.

What is the brand target for the first two years?

Right now, we are focusing on distribution. We are also going to expand the brand to department stores. The good thing is that there are a lot of enquiries coming from good malls, department stores and online channels for Dockers because there have been few new entrants in this space. I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to grow in this segment.

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