“Athleisure is now a global phenomenon,” says Sunil Anchal, founder of Gurugram-based Arcley, a sportswear brand. And why not with industry reports suggesting that the athleisurecategory is growing at a rate faster than the rest of apparel categories, athlesiure has been trending the whole season. In 2016-17, Athleisure grew at a rate of 20-25% annually andin the global activewear market, India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.9 %, in terms of value. In a conversation with Indian Retailer, Anchal traces the journey of his brand, the evolving non-Metro markets and more. Excerpts:
The Athleisureis a trending category in the clothing industry. But what’s the idea behind launching an exclusive sports gear brand?
When I was planning to return to India from the US and thought about doing something here, I was looking at various industries.As I researched on the market for athlesiure wear, I realized there was a huge gap in the market. And this gap in the market existed not because there were less brands or athleisure products, but there was a gap in the way of the product offering. For instance, the domestic brands were targeting the price-sensitive market, while the global brands were serving the premium market. In between these two markets, there was a huge gap for a brand that was affordable, accessible and delivered high quality products. In a bid to meet these key requirements, Arcley was launched in 2015.
Isn’t the e-commerce marketplace already overcrowded with various brands at multiple price points? How are you dealing with the online competition?
In a larger perspective, e-commerce marketplace thrives on war sales in India. A big section of shoppers make online purchases because of the competitive discounts and we have to admit it. Now, with online shopping also becoming a part of a customer’s purchase experience, easy buy/sell and return policies are also a big part of sales. However, though we are present in the marketplace, we have distinguished ourselves in a separate category that doesn’t fall prey to discounts. We are scaling organically as our loyal customers bring repeat business. And most importantly, our offline sales are doing better than the online sales.
Whether online or offline, how do you think the overall segment is performing in the Indian market?
Much has changed in the last decade. While a sport was considered only for jobs or as a hobby, people are now more open to sports and it is a part of life for most with disposable income. As a result of this, there has been an overall growth in sportswear industry. In fact, India is the largest contributor for sportswear industry in Asia. With millennials having high aspirations, sportswear industry is undergoing a lot of changes adding new brands and even new categories.
So how have you scaled since the launch? In which markets do you see high growth opportunities?
We have grown close 100 per cent Y-o-Y and we are currently selling about 5,000 units a month. As we grow, we have realized that when we launched in 2016, people were willing to give a try to athletic wear and most of our initial sales happened because people were willing to experiment with a new brand. In the last two years much has changed and people have accepted our products. We see more and more customers asking particularly for our products. And this openness is not just in customers, but in retailers too, who are willing to give shelves to a new brand. Very interestingly, this change is happening not just in Metros, but very aggressively in non-Metros too. Athlesiure is truly a global phenomenon.
What are your expansion plans?
Right now we are available only in Haryana and Delhi and this year we’d entering about 3-4 states. We will also be increasing our product portfolio and will be launching some exclusive lines. Furthermore, we will be one of the few brands that will launch its customized sports apparel, as per the needs and demands of our customers.