Interview: Manoj Nair, CEO, Gaurik Lifestyle
Clothing and accessories brand Guess marked its return to the Indian market in July this year with a new store at DLF Mall in Delhi-NCR. Its distributor in India, Gaurik Lifestyle, is optimistic about strengthening its offline presence, with a target of 10 stores by the end of FY22. Manoj Nair speaks with Vaishnavi Gupta about the commercial roadmap changes in the purchasing preferences of consumers, etc.
Guess is betting big on Large Format Exclusive Brand Outlets (EBOs) in India. How lucrative is offline retail for the brand?
Market sentiment after the pandemic has been quite strong in the retail sector. We continuously see an improvement in consumer demand after the second wave, which paves the way for our EBOs in the Indian market. The brick and mortar model has always been capital intensive; it represents the face of our brand. We plan to explore two store formats in India: first, a denim store, which will have all categories offered by Guess, and the other will be an exclusive accessories store.
What does your offline expansion plan for India look like?
At present, our expansion will focus on the most profitable shopping centers in India. We will gradually approach micro-markets and introduce accessory stores, including key categories like handbags and watches, in small towns. We recently unveiled our first store at DLF Mall of India, Noida, and will expand into markets like Mumbai and Pune in the coming months. Our goal is to open 10 stores by the end of this fiscal year across the country. In addition, over the next five years, we plan to launch nearly 50 stores, alongside our own online presence.
We also plan to reach the revenue bar of Rs 300 crore by 2026. Currently our entire collection is imported from all over the world. However, we will start manufacturing and sourcing from India once our business grows.
How many sales do online platforms bring in?
We are present on e-commerce platforms like Tata CLiQ, Nykaa, Myntra and Ajio. Sixty percent of our commercial sales come from e-commerce channels. The omnichannel strategy has worked well for us as consumers benefit from a mix of offline and virtual experience.
How have purchasing behaviors changed during the pandemic in the premium segment?
The pandemic has certainly caused the high-end clothing and lifestyle industry to fall sharply, but the situation has been quite dynamic. Consumers are now engaged in revenge shopping, which is an opportunity for brands like ours to boost their sales. Things change quickly; the rebound after the second confinement was rapid.
The current state of fashion is comfort; comfortable, casual and aesthetic clothing is what consumers are looking for now. Accessories have become a favorite among new-age consumers, especially among our target audience. We carry a variety of accessories including watches, sunglasses, jewelry, hats and belts.
What is Guess’ marketing strategy?
As it will take some time to expand and scale our stores, our marketing approach is more channel and store focused for now. We are currently interacting with digital consumers on different media, collaborating with influencers on social media, for example. As we launch more stores, we’ll explore more regional and location-based marketing approaches. Our goal is to be present on all relevant channels including wholesale, e-commerce and retail.
Are you planning to diversify your product offering in India?
Yes. We have relaunched Guess on the Indian market with a new Spring / Summer 2021 collection which consists of a range of jeans, dresses, shoes, etc. A key part of this collection will be accessories and a wide range of handbags – from satchels to tote bags and backpacks to luggage bags.
The Indian market will see a new line of sportswear in our upcoming Fall / Winter 2021 collection. This collection is designed to fit into the multitasking home work environment. In the pre-Covid era, sportswear had no penetration into the world, but today this category accounts for 7% of our clothing sales. This growth has been observed due to a shift in consumer preferences towards clothing focused on fitness and comfort. They are now making designer fashion choices that are both comfortable and stylish.