Wills Lifestyle has been offering you products that complement every facet of your personality at work, when you are relaxed, while you party and for special occasions. Here we have Mr. Atul Chand, Chief Executive, Lifestyle retail business, ITC talking us through the fashion journey of brand over the years.
Aadeetya Sriram (AS): Wills lifestyle has tied up with many designers over the years, how fruitful has the association been?
Atul Chand (AC): We are the title sponsors of this particular event in first place, because there are some great synergies between the event and ITC’s lifestyle brands; Wills Lifestyle and Fiama Di Wills, there is opportunity for us to work together, create benchmarks and that is how this particular event and sponsorship of this event initiated in 2006. Further on from there, we have had a strong relationship with the fashion fraternity and we thought that it would be a great opportunity if we could take this event from the ramp and take to the rack, so that we can celebrate with the customers who come to the stores. So not only would they view it across different medias but also get a chance to own one. Consequently we tied up with designers for the ramp-to-rack initiative, with about 10 designers where they get an access to the retail footprint to our customer base and therefore their labels are available across the country. It’s been a fruitful set-up. It accounts for about 15% of our sales.
AS: With regard to your initiation in 2006, a lot has changed over the past 5 years, how have you seen the market and trends evolve?
AC: Well, a lot of things have happened in the last 5 years. For one, India is a buoyant economy and therefore there is growth happening. There has been a huge expansion in the last couple of years, infact if I were to take the last two years and the next one year, we would have doubled are retail presence by having more stores in the same cities and also going to Tier II & III cities. A lot of designers have got added. So from 1-2 there are about 10 of them, who create special collections which get retailed in the Wills Lifestyle store and these meet with good success. So fashion is coming into the mainstream and designer wear which was earlier restrictive or limited in terms of accessibility and pricing is not got the prêt version. Though it is still aspirational, glamorous, it has become now wearable.
AS: How has the Tier II & III cities responded to you brand?
AC: I think there is an affluence happening in these cities, there is a rise in aspiration as well and this is all getting fueled by the creation of modern retail spaces and lot of brands and lot of choices. So, one is that there is a demand, and secondly people are able to supply to meet that particular demand. The response has been extremely positive and we have penetrated across some 15 odd new markets in the last 1-2 years. As we go across to more markets bringing in more stores with our products, this is a good time to explore down this path.
AS: At present, how many stores does Wills Lifestyle operate across the country with? How many coming up in the near future?
AC: Willis Lifestyle today is operating across the country through 78 stores. We have plans to take the figure to 90-95 by the end of the fiscal year. Our stores are positioned at about 40 cities.
AS: What is your marketing strategy for the brand? How much are you investing in this regard?
AC: I think investments are all linked to what you’re expansion plans are. It would suffice to say, that whatever investments are required, whether it is in terms of retail expansion, newer products or working with designers or sponsoring the Wills Lifestyle India fashion Week, those are things that we will definitely invest in, to be able to grow the business, market and scale up.
AS: What are the future plans for Wills Lifestyle?
AC: As I said, firstly we will concentrate on retail expansion. Second is, we’ve created high-end collections, which is designer wear as well as men’s formal collection. We will be adding more premiumness to the range and we have also experimented with lots of new concepts; like having boutique stores, we have stores in ITC hotels. So the idea is to make it more up-scale, make it more premium through the products, retail formats and through the imagery.