Established in 1954, Liberty Shoes Ltd has proved to be a brand that caters to a diverse set of style conscious customers across the globe. We connected with Anupam Bansal, MD, Liberty Retail Revolutions Ltd, to understand the new happenings at their end, including the brand’s growth pattern and inspiration…
Vrinda Oberai (VO): How big, do you think, is the role being played by brand endorsements by celebrities (for various retail brands) these days?
Anupam Bansal (AB): Brand ambassadors play a key role in shaping brand communication for the customers. Celebrities are chosen as brand ambassadors because they are popular faces, well recognized and have a strong connect with the masses. They have a huge fan following, which helps the brand reach out to the masses through them. Celebrities associate themselves with the brand they believe in, and their endorsement gives the brand the credibility they are seeking.
VO: How different has the response been to brand association (Hrithik Roshan, in Liberty’s case) in comparison to other forms of marketing and brand promotions done initially?
AB: Hrithik represents a quantum leap for Brand Liberty. His mega star status elevates the brand to a stratospheric level, which will definitely help create a buzz in the marketplace. Hrithik’s iconic appeal to contemporary youth imbues the brand with a fresh feel and that is a dream come true. Also, as a style idol, he lends the brand a very fashion forward status. Consumers are aware of the association and the announcement has received overwhelming response. Customers are awaiting the surprises that the brand is going to offer in terms of collection, design, styles and much more.
VO: What is the USP of your new campaign – A feeling called Liberty?
AB: With the new campaign ‘A feeling called Liberty’, the brand will strengthen its repositioning as a more youth-centric brand, with elegant and unique footwear designs, different from its earlier avatar as a family-centric brand. The basic motive of the campaign is to invite the customers to come and ‘express themselves’ and their style statement with Liberty shoes as they make with the choice of their apparel, accessories, et al. For them, shoes shouldn’t be a tangible product, but a product with a lot of intangible attachments.
VO: How have your marketing strategies changed over time? How do you position your brand in the prevalent times?
AB: The market, especially the consumer market, is being increasingly driven by young spenders with an insatiable appetite for the new and trendy. It is, therefore, no surprise that in such a scenario, a brand like Liberty decides to strengthen connect with the youth by injecting a heady dose of youthfulness into our marketing strategies. And the most important marketing strategy for Liberty at the moment was to get a face for the brand so as to carve a niche for itself. Liberty took the leap from being a family brand to becoming a stylish and aspirational brand through the brand association with Hrithik Roshan.
For the current season, we are coming up with a series of large innovative advertisements in the print media to enhance the impact and draw attention to Liberty. The campaign covers the entire collection of Liberty and features the formal as well as the casual range. The new look is based on the latest trends for Autumn Winter 2011. The campaign, apart from press, also includes in-store posters as well as the digital media. Obviously, the ripples of this supernova is being felt all across with the fresh youthful feel of Brand Liberty taking the centre-stage not just in the showrooms but also in the hearts and minds of the customers.
This is the beginning, which will kickstart a chain of many more exciting events associated with Brand Liberty.
VO: What is Liberty’s current market share in the footwear retail sector? How do you see the same increasing in the times to come and why?
AB: Our brand has, over the years, emerged as one of the most trusted and sought after footwear brands. One also needs to realise that the footwear market in India is highly fragmented with the unorganized sector having an overwhelmingly large share. There is a preponderance of niche brands. In this scenario, comparing different brands is akin to comparing apples and oranges. So it’s difficult and somewhat impractical to quantify market shares.
VO: What are your expansion plans and what is the kind of investment that you are looking at with regards to the same?
AB: We are in the process of expanding our national retail presence to the interiors of the country covering smaller cities and towns with the launch of an outlet every week. We plan to open 100 stores all over India, of which 50 per cent of our expansion plans would be in the southern market. We have already marked our presence in Salem, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Nagercoil, Chennai, Bangalore, etc and aim to take the count of our stores to 345 by the end of this financial year. We are investing around Rs 25-40 lakh in each store.
VO: What brands, in your opinion, are your immediate competitors?
AB: Rather that competing with the brands of the world, our focus is to work upon ourselves as we have just entered into the phase of repositioning the brand. Liberty is one brand in the country that has the maximum number of sub-brands under its umbrella and thus has a lot to offer to each and every person of the family. So, we are not competing against any one brand but are competing with many in the sub categories.
VO: Are you doing something new/different at Liberty, which sets you apart from the other players with respect to attracting your target audience?
AB: We have adopted a consumer-driven approach and made sure that the shelf space in the stores is occupied by products that today’s generation, the young families, wish to buy rather than the products that the company wishes to sell. This customer connect has yielded valuable results. Today Liberty is drawing in a younger, more fashion- focused target customer, but more importantly, with the company’s operating expertise – from footwear design to the retail floor – we are able to identify emerging footwear trends and deliver the hottest styles that consumers want here and now.
We have been using merchandising as a tool to get more footfalls and this has taken the form of striking merchandising systems that flow product, store-by-store, filling each location's demand for the "hottest" footwear.
VO: Has your target audience grown over these years?
AB: Yes, it has. Since its inception in the early ‘50s, Liberty has incorporated new sub-categories in the buyer segment. As a family footwear brand, catering to both male and female, as well as all age groups and income strata, we have a growing range that today extends from Rs 99 per pair to Rs 7,000 per pair.
Apart from consumers, we are also meeting the needs of the institutional sector including defence, hospitality, railways, airways and many more. ‘Warrior’, a B2B initiative in the form of a Safety Shoe from the house of Liberty, is doing really well and is receiving extremely good response not only from India, but also abroad.
VO: How have you seen this brand grow over the years? What has been your inspiration?
AB: I have had a first-hand experience of the Liberty growth saga. My main inspiration, in all of this has been the founding fathers of Brand Liberty, whose vision, commitment and sense of enterprise led to the emergence of one of the country’s most trusted brands. The Indian growth story, when rest of the world was reeling under an unprecedented financial crisis, has also been an abiding source of inspiration for me. It has instilled in me a sense of self-belief that we can overcome the most challenging of situations and take on the world’s best and succeed.
VO: What is it that you’re seeking to attain (ultimate goal)?
AB: Our ultimate goal is to be recognised as the country’s most preferred footwear brand, both in terms of style and comfort. Also, we look forward to emerging on the world stage as part of the Brand India success story.