Metro Shoes: Strong presence in Tier II and III cities
Metro Shoes: Strong presence in Tier II and III cities

Farah Malik Bhanji, Executive Director, Metro Shoes, gives an account of the brand’s success and changing trends with respect to the Indian footwear market to Vrinda Oberai. Having opened its doors in 1947, Metro Shoes has now become a household name in India. The brand began as a single outlet in Mumbai and has grown into a nationwide chain of exclusive fashion footwear and accessories stores.

Vrinda Oberai (VO): What strategy did you follow when you started to expand?

Farah Malik Bhanji (FMB): When we initially planned to expand from one store to a national chain, we knew we would be competing with owner operated stores.  We would be competing with the passion and entrepreneurial spirit of an owner. Thus, we built a system of remuneration, which allowed every manager at the store to operate as an owner.  This has been one of our USP’s in backend systems. 

Furthermore, in India, customer habits change every 100 kilometers.  In Chennai we sell the most number of white chappals for men but women rarely wear white. The biggest heel-height in Kolkata is the smallest heel-height in Chandigarh. Since our inception, our product range has been regionally sensitive and we make sure we understand the needs of our customers in the 40 cities, we operate from. We consider this to be our major strength.

VO: Whenever a new collection is being worked upon by experts at Metro Shoes, what is the criterion that is kept in mind?

FMB: New collections introduced across our stores are based on current fashion trends. Once, the collections are finalised they are customised in terms of the heel, shape etc to suit the individual markets. Such an approach has ensured that our slow moving stock is less than 10 per cent of our total stock. 

VO: How often do you indulge in CSR-activities?

FMB: Metro Shoes strongly believes in community service and we on an anonymous basis do participate in charitable activities. Lately, on the completion of 100 stores milestone we donated 100 limbs to the Jaipur Foot Foundation. 

VO: Does Metro Shoes rely on innovative marketing tools like SMS marketing? How do you reach out to your target audience?

FMB: Metro Shoes works on an optimum marketing plan consisting of traditional media like newspapers, outdoor etc as well as innovative mediums like SMS marketing, online marketing, creating opportunities for marketing where none existed like our branded Shoe Shine standees in the malls.

VO: Any plans to expand your product portfolio in the coming times?

FMB: Our product portfolio currently consists of footwear for the family for all occasions, handbags, wallets, shoe-care products, foot-care products, belts, socks, handkerchiefs and cuff links.  Currently, we are not looking to expand our product portfolio.  We are looking, however, to expand our market portfolio.  We have two brands, Metro Shoes and Mochi, which cater to section A & B audiences.  We have recently launched our brand, MSL – More Shoes for Less, which strives to give fashion at an average MRP of Rs 390.  We are also achieving modest sales through E-commerce.

VO: Tell us about your presence across India and the type of format you are present in?

FMB: We are currently present as multi brand outlets across 108 destinations in 40 plus cities.  Recently, we have also tied up with a shop-in-shop format and are present across 27 Shopper’s Stop stores through this format.  We are also looking at E-commerce.

VO: What was the turnover of the company last fiscal?

FMB: During the last financial year (2009 - 10) our turnover crossed Rs 285 crores, accompanied with a 22 per cent increase in sales.

VO: What are your expansion plans?

FMB: We plan to add another 50 stores this year primarily across tier-II and tier- III segments, which will take our count to 150 plus stores across India. We are also aggressively looking at tapping the online shopping segment as well as the shop-in-shop format.

VO: What kind of presence do you have in tier-II and tier-III cities and towns?

FMB: We have seen strong potential in Tier-II and Tier-III cities primarily due to the high significance given to brands and the low competition. Currently we have presence in cities like Kochi, Pondicherry, Coimbatore, Mangalore, Vijayawada, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ambala, Noida, Gurgaon, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bhopal, Indore, Nasik, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Surat, Rajkot and Baroda. (Tier II and III are defined as areas with population below five million people)

VO: What is your market share? And what is your strategy to stand out in the presence of many international brands?

FMB: Metro Shoes being the largest fashion footwear retailer in India currently has approximately 3 per cent share of the footwear market. The industry is primarily dominated by value players and innumerable number of small players. As per a report by RNCOS organised footwear industry in India is estimated to be worth Rs 10,000 crore.

Regarding competition from international Brands, so far we have not seen any major thrust from an international player in this space.  But we hope to see more as we know it will only enhance the experience. 

VO: Do you have any tie-up with any international brand

FMB: We do not have any tie up with international brands but Metro Shoes has provided a platform for many international brands like Florshiem and Crocs and has been partner to many successful launches in India.  Any premium brand in India today will definitely have Metro as one of their preferred retail partners.

VO: How do you perceive the retail industry in India? What is the potential of footwear-retail market?

FMB: We have seen the footwear industry grow for last 60 years. The priorities have changed gradually from price range to quality, design and now to fashion trends.

However, in the last few years Indian Retail has gone through a dramatic transformation in lifestyle by moving from traditional spending on food, groceries and clothing to lifestyle categories that deliver better quality and taste.  Footwear and other accessories have gone from being a necessity to a fashion statement.  This has created a lot of opportunity in the space to experiment and grow the footwear pie.

In the next decade, we see a shift in consumer preference towards more casual, clearer and younger style. This would be a result of increasing global travel coupled with increased media penetration that has led to heightened awareness of international trends and lifestyles among domestic consumers.

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