Amante planning to launch 25 stores in India

Unveiling the brands future expansion plans, Smita Murarka, Head, Marketing and eCommerce, MAS Brands spoke to Indianretailer.
Smita Murarka, Head, Marketing and eCommerce, MAS Brands

Amante, the Sri Lanka-based women’s lingerie brand, operating in the Indian market since 2007, has launched its first store in Thane, Mumbai while planning to have around 25 stores across the country by the end of 2017. Unveiling the brands future expansion plans, Smita Murarka, Head, Marketing and eCommerce, MAS Brands spoke to Indianretailer.

What inspired you to launch a store now when you are operating in the market since 2007?
I think it is a right time when women are getting more modern, they are wearing different kind of trendy lingerie so it was the right time to add the experience of a brand through own store and provide the complete lingerie and intimate wear experience. We were very clear that we want to go to the right malls where there will be International brands. There is a challenge of finding the right malls and space crunch with the multi-brand outlets.
We were getting a lot of feedback from the consumers that they want to shop at Amante exclusive stores and that really strengthened our belief that we have to launch our own platform. We are committed to this channel and this channel has potential. We believe in Omni-channel strategy so it’s not like MBO stores or LFO stores or online stores. We think there is a kind of consumer who wants to come to the brands own store.
When we were launching the brand in India 2007 the category was such that people were not even aware of good fitting lingerie. It was very important for us that they will not change the place of shopping for a brand and they would still continue to shop as they wanted a good product. Hence it makes sense for us to establish Amante as a brand and be present across all the channels including EBOs to get the people familiarize with the brand.

Take us through the market research the brand has undertaken before launching an EBO.
In 2007 the market was pretty nascent the good quality comfortable lingerie was not available. There were local lower price brands which were catering to the basic needs, women were not aware of good quality lingerie, whatever was given to them by the seller they use to buy. They were not educated enough and exposed enough with the availability of good brands. Our focus at that time to make women aware of why they need a good quality product, what is a value proposition that we are offering and they can afford it as our price range is not exorbitant.
This is the reason we thought of launching our products in LFO platform as the market is already there where consumer will be availed with better brand and quality product. We captured that. Now we are in all channels, in all the top stores like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Central, Westside among others.
Then online influx happened and the consumer behavior changed, there also we are leading everywhere. Over the years we have created a demand for the brand. Our huge loyal base of consumers which don’t move out so now we think it’s a time to take the loyal consumer base to another level by providing them an experience with brands own zones.
It’s a right time for us where consumer has got mature, they are learning, they know the importance of lingerie and how it affects their outer experience.  
We are doing a lot of effort in educating the consumer because still the curiosity is growing but the knowledge is not complete. We want to be in our own environment where we have control, liberty to do lot of things, where we can display our best products and then really educate the consumers to buy the best products.

Why did you choose Thane as a location for your first store?
While we had immediate requirement and Viviana Mall, Thane became available with the brilliant area at ground floor. We basically look for great malls, great partnerships and great locations with new or existing malls. We would love to open stores everywhere in Mumbai wherever space become available.
Roughly it is 1000 sq ft- 1500 sq ft store with one stop shop for all the intimate wear needs where we will have lingerie, sleepwear and the exclusive categories of swimwear and sportswear, everything the consumer can get under one roof.
The store has large fitting rooms with the whole fitting experience. It’s a state of the art store, its fixture design is all done by international interior decorators so there is a lot of focus been given to the way the whole store looks and feel. The idea will be to upgrade the customer and give them the experience that encourages them to come to the store and buy more categories of choices.
Our target group (TG) is women between 18 to 45 year old age group and our main focus is on 22 to 28 years old college going and working girls. We are present in metros, mini metros and tier II cities.

What’s the ROI you expect from the store?
That’s something the time will tell, right now it’s a store launch it’s something that we want to give as an experience. Over the time the store has to do well and it will do much above than our expectations. After six months once we will have three to four stores across markets we will come to know the ROI. But going by other brands stores and current trend we think that this format is going to work because customers are seeking the same.

What are your expansion plans?
We are launching one store every month in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Pune, Bengaluru, Chandigarh among others. We will be launching one store this year in Mumbai, 12 to 14 stores by the end of 2016 and around 25 stores by 2017 end. All these stores will be opened through franchisees.
Primarily the focus will be on metros and mini metros and then we will move to the tier II markets. After opening five stores we will come to know whether we have to go aggressive with the store expansion. We are expecting at least 15 percent growth from these stores every year.
Presently we are supplying to 1000 MBOs and we are aiming to increase that number by 50 per cent next year. And we will be targeting premium outlets only. Our price point starts from Rs 350- Rs 400 to Rs 25000 and we won’t go below that.

How different will be the product offerings from MBOs?
MBO is the small zone where the products are stacked. MBOs display a lot of our core and price sensitive products but EBOs will offer complete range. We will have exclusive lingerie lines only for EBOs and we will have exclusive categories like swimwear, sportswear, bridal and the honeymoon lingerie collections. The collection will also be offered through our eCommerce portal.
The display, the whole settings, the number of options, personalise consulting to the customers for their fitting experiences all that is something that we cannot offer at other platforms like MBOs.

Talk us through your marketing and promotional plans/activities.
We have 360-degree marketing plans. We will advertise in newspapers, radio, in mall, editorial coverage and we will have Bollywood actress Isha Gupta coming to launch our first store.

How do you view competition from brands like Valentine in the EBO space?
With the rising number of brands EBOs the whole lingerie market is evolving rapidly. There will be customers who will come into the store for well fitting products starting at Rs 300 - Rs 400 and the same existing customer will evolve to Rs 600. Everybody is going to upgrade so the brands coming in the lower end will not affect us and the brands coming in the super premium category will only fuel our growth because we are sitting at a affordable yet premium positioning.

What is the brand’s online presence like currently?
We as a brand have Omni-channel strategy. We are present on all the online platforms like Zivame, Myntra, Jabong among others and our online sales growth is only five percent since a year and a half. Unlike apparel - where people are willing buy and experiment with unbranded online products for design- lingerie is very technical product so repeat purchase will not happen when the quality is not perfect. Online players also need brands like us so they are just fuelling our growth in remote villages where we couldn’t reach easily.
Online will be the big focus for us where we will develop more content similar to the EBO where we are going to talk to the customers with consultation.

What is the reach of your own eCommerce operations and what are the plans of widening them?
We have launched our own e-commerce portal six months back with which we are supplying to around 10,000 pincodes. Our idea is to reach out to more integral consumers who knows about Amante and are sure about our fit but can’t reach the stores.
May be in the near future we will be launching our own app.

What is the ratio of your online sale?
Online contributes 10-12 percent of our entire sale. Overall online sales growth has been 5X in one and half year which is exponential and it’s more than overall lingerie e-commerce growth.
Overall as a brand since last two year we have grown by 55-60 percent and we are targeting the same growth rate for the coming year too.    

How you are tackling with the discounting problem in the online space?
Our product is available at the same MRP and discounting is also the same online and offline. Sometimes the online marketplaces on their own give little additional discounts but that’s again only on discounted products. On fresh core merchandise we don’t allow to give discounts.

Will you be leveraging your EBO presence for eCommerce supplies? 
Yes we would like to do that very soon. Once we will complete the set up of our EBOs across certain cities we can surely look at integrating it. We want to do everything that is possible to reach out to the consumers because we believe in Indian woman who needs good products to feel confident and she needs to be educated about that. We already have ipads at our store which will have catalogues integrated where consumer can choose from there. In the future we will integrate the whole also Omni-channel presence where consumer can choose online and pick up from offline stores.      
We also want to launch our loyalty programme which will target customers shopping across our channels.  

What are your overseas expansion plans?
Amante wants to become an Asian leader in lingerie. We are going to launch in Bangladesh and Pakistan this year and targeting Malaysia and Indonesia early next year. We are already there in Sri Lanka and India and going to be the regional leader in ASEAN market.

What is your current turnover and what is the target?
Last fiscal we had clocked Rs 100cr of turnover. While growing by 60 per cent YOY we are targeting Rs 160cr turnover by the end of this fiscal.

Smita Murarka
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