Comfortably Fashionable!

We've been compromising fashion for comfort and vice versa in making our retail purchases for a long time. And when it comes to buying footwear, the challenge becomes obvious. Liberty has always been bridging this gap with their range of comfortable yet stylish footwear, giving consumers a win-win on both sides.

However, the launch of their latest collection multiplies this effort by several notches. With a renewed focus on technology in their cutting edge product range, Liberty makes the amalgamation of high fashion and comfort better than ever before. The brand has made huge changes to its product range, retail experience and supply chain to stay ahead of the curve.

The Indian footwear industry has been an area of interest for international players like Clarks, Crocs, Pavers England, Skechers, Aldo, Charles & Keith etc lately, as these brands have started India operations and expanding their footprint in the country. Naturally, the Rs 25,000 crore Indian footwear industry is the driving force for these brands entering India.
Additional factors like the country's approximate 60 per cent young population, growing disposable income, and lifestyle changes have given birth to a new era of consumerism.

The new age customers are well informed, aspirant and fashion conscious. Riding on the demand curve, Liberty, a 60-year-old indigenous footwear brand has re-strategised its product portfolio, bringing a range of innovative and fresh footwear to meet consumer preferences. Sharing thoughts on the same, Anupam Bansal, Director-Retail, Liberty, said, "Even though the brand is ageing, it is important to note how we are changing to make ourselves younger rather than aged."

Innovate or die

Today, Liberty Group is the second largest shoe manufacturing company in India, with an annual turnover exceeding Rs 500 crores, and rank amongst the top five manufacturers of leather footwear of the world, producing more than 50,000 pairs a day. With robust worldwide distribution network of 150 distributors, 400 exclusive showrooms and more than 6,000 multi-brand outlets; the company is helping to dress up the feet of the fashion-driven and quality-seeking customers in more than 25 countries, including major international fashion destinations like France, Italy and Germany. Moreover, to keep the innovation engine chugging, Liberty has launched more than 650 new pairs this season alone!

Interestingly, the footwear brand has launched a detachable shoe by the name of Clic that has a stunning variety of interchangeable uppers. Also, it has come up with footwear in vibrant colours- pink, red and attractive silver- in various designs.

As per Bansal, innovation lies at the heart of the company, apart from product innovation, they have introduced various innovative measures in their EBOs too, to offer a fresh and improved retail experience. For example, as he informed, in most of the Liberty stores, they have introduced music along with different soothing aroma to elevate the brand's retail experience. As they believe, "Fragrances can transform emotions and heal bodies."

Fashion is comfort

For most of us, wearing high-heels is a painful experience altogether. A recent survey says, 2,000 women and men were asked how long it took for heels to start hurting their feet. Almost 20 per cent respondents said the pain started within 10 minutes. Therefore, it is not unnatural for Bansal to comment, "I don't think people will keep fashion above comfort. It's a compliment that people feel Liberty shoes are most comfortable. For us, people can sleep in our shoes. We, as a brand, want to keep a right balance between fashion and comfort because nobody will wear an uncomfortable shoe and that's not the focus area of ours."

Consuming Indian brand

As per the McKinsey and Company reports, India's manufacturing sector could touch $1 trillion by 2025. Factors like multinational companies willing to set up low-cost manufacturing plants in the country, along with the burgeoning demand for indigenous products can be attributed to such development. Besides, the Prime Minister's 'Make in India' concept has been hugely gaining positive response among Indian brands and brands like Liberty, whose 90-92 per cent products are self manufactured, is a good example to draw here to understand  how Indian brands and the manufacturing sector in general are gearing up against the MNCs and low-cost Chinese products.

According to Bansal, "We source best quality raw material that fits to our value proposition." For efficient SCM, Bansal informed, all the 400 Liberty showrooms are connected through a common point-of-sale- supply chain system that gets updated on daily basis and makes replenishment quick, ensuring less stock-out and making the retailing experience wonderful for their channel partners.


Liberty, a brand which is synonym for comfort, has brought a range of cool, fashionable and lifestyle footwear in a mission to reach to a younger, aspirant population of India and abroad. In an exclusive conversation, Anupam Bansal, Director-Retail and Raman Bansal, Director-Sales, Liberty speak about the factors that triggered the brand to be in sync with the changing consumer needs.

What was the rationale for you to revamp your product portfolio?

As a brand, we needed to change as per the consumer preference. For example, ten years back, we wanted very basic black shoes. Even if we were offered a red shoe, we used to say-who will wear this. But look at the trend today. Now, people will say, I have too many black, can I have a yellow, red, blue shoe etc. This is a very clear preference change in the market and Liberty is working to be in sync with the market. So, the rationale was completely consumer driven.

Secondly, our country is becoming younger, as 65 per cent of the population is going to be young population only, by 2020, so it is obvious to focus on the area where the 80 per cent of the disposable income is coming from. The middle-class is growing too. Hence, it is understandable to be in sync with those demands. Media influence and opening of the economy are also other contributing factors.

Although 85 per cent of the market share is unorganised, but with entrance of many foreign brands and exposure to media, the aspiration level of majority of population is building up, which inspires Indian companies to match up to the aspiration. These are the triggers that make us to be more fashion inclined. It is not like that we were not a fashion brand earlier, rather, the demand of the country was not that fashion-driven.

How much emphasis are you puttingon your accessory segment?

Ten years back, we were not focusing much on accessory. However, today, it contributes 6-7 per cent of the business and there is a plan of adding new categories in the accessory segment as well. We have all kinds of men's bags, belts, accessories, clutches etc and we are trying to experiment with other categories like socks, shoe-care products too. Our intention is to generate10 per cent revenue from this segment, taking it from the existing 6-7 per cent.

Do you feel eCommerce is important?

I feel that brick-and-mortar and eCommerce should go hand in hand. We also don't want to fall prey to fly-by-night operators who are coming and giving discounts because at the end, the brand would suffer. As a brand, we can't afford to give that much discounts and we feel online will be supplementing our growth, unless we plan something very concrete on discount plans.

What are your changing focus areas?

So far, I feel comfort is still an important feature of our footwear and that's how we say, fashion is comfort. Even today, if somebody feels the footwear is not comfortable but fashionable, people will not buy.

Would you like to rebrand yourselves?

We would like to remain a family footwear brand, as I don't see that the market has matured to that level where we can move away from our family footwear brand positioning. But looking at the future prospect, where the consumers become more independent and do not think to be a part of the family, then there may be a chance of such re-positioning.

Having said that, under our umbrella brand, there are tens of brands, which can serve to the independent style demand of the people and I think that will take 5-10 years to reach to that stage. As of now, we would still position ourselves as family footwear brand and will keep nourishing our sub-brands like FootFun for Kids, Fortune for formals, and if need be, we will transform these brands as independent brands.

How do you see Tier II & III cities for expansion?

As far as Tier II & III cities are concerned, our substantial growth is coming from these cities. From business viability prospect, real estate in metro cities is very expensive and availability of the product in that specific area remains low, making it difficult. Tier II & III cities generate better ROI than metros. 

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