Saturday, September 20, 2007

Brand rush to Mumbai

With foreign companies being allowed to set up exclusive retail outlets, top-end brands like Jimmy Choo, Savile Row and Chanel are making a beeline for India, reports Shiv Kumar

At present, only single brand retail showrooms are being allowed in the country Photos: S. Chandan

The fashionistas of Mumbai are facing a problem of plenty. The past six months have seen some of the biggest brand names pitch their tents in this city. Calvin Klein and Gucci were among the first to announce its entry with glittering parties that saw the jetset lapse into ecstasy. The rest quietly followed — FCUK, Esprit, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Savile Row.

According to the grapevine, more are waiting in the wings. Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) is said to be setting up stores in a hush-hush manner that will sell its premium brands Kenzo and Marc Jacobs to the richie rich set in Delhi and Mumbai. Word is that the company’s executives were more than pleasantly surprised with the off take of its snooty label — Fendi from the city’s stores.

Men need not fret with the fairer sex walking away in all their glory. Forbes Brands, a division of Forbes and Company from the old-worldly Shapoorji Pallonji Group, has tied up with the Savile Row company to launch the famous men’s brands over the next 30 years. “The company plans to add 150 stores in India by the end of this year, most of which will be shop-in-shops,” said Jeffrey Doltis, Managing Director, Savile Row at the launch here.

And it is not just in clothes that the big names are coming. Salvatore Ferragamo opened its first fine leatherwear store two years ago. Another player Hermes will open shop later this year.

Following the footsteps of Shapoorji Pallonji group is real estate major DLF. The company has tied up with Giorgio Armani, who will be the anchor tenant at several of the malls DLF is putting up in different parts of the country.

Reports say the big brands entering India are looking at one of the so far least explored retail markets in the world. With restrictions on international companies setting up retail showrooms being lifted only now, companies are rushing in says Dewang Shah, a market analyst with a city-based brokerage. “Right now only single brand retail showrooms are being allowed in the country, but when retail is completely liberalised one can expect retailers specialising in multi-brands setting up shop,” says Shah.

But Indian retailers are already pre-empting the entry of foreign multi-brand retailers. DLF, for instance, is setting up its DLF Emporio which will have more than 70 international brands including Armani, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada and Cartier under one roof.

A recent India Brand Equity Foundation report said the country’s retail market would grow $330 billion in 2007 to $427 billion by 2010. Most of the big names do not want to risk trial and error by coming in directly. Hence, the major role played by groups like DLF and Shapoorji Pallonji.

Another big name facilitating the entry of foreign brands is the Murjani group. The expatriate Sindhi business family is associated in the West for its Gloria Vanderbilt and Tommy Hilfiger jeans.

The group is now exploring opportunities closer home. The Murjanis are bringing in Calvin Klein, French Connection, La Perla and Jimmy Choo apart from their old warhorses.