Started 20 years ago as an export firm exporting footwear to the markets of Russia and Europe, M&B Footwear went ahead of time to detangle the nitty-gritty of brand properties being transferred and thus Lee Cooper footwear landed in Indian soil, at same time as Lee Cooper apparel.
The tag of Export Company made M&B an obvious choice for the international fashion brand to mark its foray, which was also M&B’s entry into full fledged retail. In words of Bhai Ajinder Singh, MD of M&B Footwear, “Because we were anyway Export Company, when we approached Lee Cooper they found our products in accordance with their standards. It was quick meeting of minds and we agreed on strategy and way forward, thereby we ended up being home-grown manufacturer.”
Elucidating on understanding the core of a denim brand and replicating it for footwear, Singh explained, “A brand of jeans is known for durability, versatility and fashion – standard three things. We tried to understand if we could make footwear design on same sidelines it would gel with the quality of brand.”
“We understood that brand aspirations can be shifted from one category to other, which is now being followed by everyone. We were ahead of the curve in sense that we recognized that and that’s how we started,” he added.
In words of Singh, the brand is all about value so the trust between a licensor and licensee needs to be very high that latter will manage the brand and add to the brand value. He even cited example of Sketchers that came to country many times in past because the initial licensee failed to understand the brand and now Sketches is getting it right the fourth time.
Licensing as an effective retail strategy
“It actually gave us a leg in Indian market because we were not present in here and there were not too many entry points,” said Singh while adding that the brand does give you an entry point in the market because if you don’t have credibility in market, it is going to take you very long to get established in the market.
Brand licensing is a strategy that cuts on the time taken to establish and position a brand in market. The only time taken is to introduce new product category. Licensing is basically a quick start as a company.
While the players are getting into the wild goose chase of adding more and more brands to their portfolio, M&B Footwear has shrugged off a couple of brands and the current portfolio includes Lee Cooper, Provogue and iD only.
“We do get a lot of options for brands. In fact we had historically 2-3 other brand that we have given up right now because we feel that Lee Cooper has tremendous potential in the market, so rather than creating too many brands, we are creating sub brands within Lee Cooper,” explains Singh.
Instead of getting newer brands, the footwear manufacturer is creating sub-brands and intends to have a group of products depending on the customer and channel.
The brand has created four sub-lines in Lee Cooper – Originals, Core, Lifestyle and RDLC. On retail side, M&B Footwear is looking to grow on franchise model. The brand is getting a lot of inquiries from trade for conversion of their shops into shop-in-shop or mini-stores.
Online vs. offline
At the moment brand’s traditional offline remain ahead. Singh says that the online strategy in today’s time is not good for brands in the sense that the primary benefit they are offering is discounting that too from their low pocket. What that does is to create confusion in customer’s mind about brand’s price-points and credibility.