Shoes & Accessories - - Research -

“Build­ing a sus­tain­able re­la­tion­ship with cus­tomers is a key op­por­tu­nity for busi­nesses to achieve an om­nichan­nel strat­egy. Seam­less ac­cess across web, mo­bile and store chan­nels and the abil­ity to con­vert this into richer en­gage­ment is crit­i­cal. Adopt­ing the right tech­nol­ogy plat­forms can help trans­form the busi­ness model, and es­tab­lish a cen­tralised sys­tem that en­ables con­sis­tent ser­vice de­liv­ery across chan­nels. By im­prov­ing the fore­cast of de­mand and in­ven­tory pro­cesses, sig­nif­i­cantly de­creas­ing cus­tomer lead-time through high in­vest­ments in on­line ful­fil­ment cen­tres and con­verg­ing phys­i­cal and e-com­merce chan­nels, Wood­land is aim­ing to build a fu­ture-proof sup­ply chain. The tar­get is to have a higher avail­abil­ity, lower in­ven­tory and higher ser­vice level than its com­peti­tors.”

Wood­land be­gan its op­er­a­tions in the 1960s and was started in Que­bec, Canada for mak­ing win­ter boots. In the late 1980s, on ac­count of bank­ruptcy, Wood­land changed hands from Mar­cel Garneau’s Que­bec-based im­port­ing com­pany, to the In­dian ex­porter – Aero Group. The In­dian com­pany was al­ready ex­port­ing man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts, like shoe uppers and leather boots, to Canada and the for­mer Soviet Union; this ac­qui­si­tion turned Aero Group from a sup­plier to an owner with ac­cess to three brands: White Fox for fur-lined shoes, Bou­tique for fash­ion­able footwear, and Wood­land for those who love the out­doors.

Since In­dia was still in the pre-lib­er­al­i­sa­tion pe­riod, the Group pre­ferred to tread in fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory and con­tin­ued to ex­port prod­ucts to Euro­pean coun­tries, like Rus­sia, who took a lik­ing for the brand’s sturdy boots meant for ex­treme cold weather. Cur­rently, Wood­land re­tail is present in over 40 coun­tries and the com­pany has also set up of­fices and

ware­houses in coun­tries like Hong Kong, Moscow and Dubai to cater to the re­quire­ments of dif­fer­ent ge­ogra­phies.

Wood­land is an as­pi­ra­tional brand and it has seen the In­dian re­tail sce­nario change over the last twenty-five years. It was in 1991 that In­dia opened its econ­omy to the world and Wood­land saw a huge op­por­tu­nity to mar­ket its prod­ucts in In­dia. They en­tered In­dia in 1992, post a re­search con­ducted on con­sumer be­hav­iour that helped the com­pany of­fer a spe­cial line of shoes de­signed specif­i­cally for In­dia. Though it had to al­ter its de­sign to match the In­dian cli­mate, it held onto its ba­sic at­tributes of ‘tough’ and ‘wear­able’. The brand po­si­tioned it­self as a rugged, out­door leather shoe brand, the kind usu­ally pre­ferred by ad­ven­tur­ists. As the tar­get was youth, who were 17–25-yearsold, they con­nected in­stantly with this new cat­e­gory of spe­cialised ‘out­door ad­ven­ture sports’ shoes.

Since re­tail in the coun­try was at a very nascent stage and largely dom­i­nated by un­or­gan­ised and high­street re­tail, the com­pany col­lab­o­rated with some es­tab­lished re­tail footwear brands like Bata and Carona to sell their prod­uct, but the part­ner­ship did not go well. This pushed Wood­land to open its own sin­gle-branded re­tail out­lets in In­dia in 1996. The brand im­me­di­ately clicked with the youth and slowly a sep­a­rate prod­uct line was de­signed es­pe­cially for In­dia.

To­day, In­dia is one of the key mar­kets for the ad­ven­ture brand and it is present across 600 com­pany stores and over 5,000 multi-re­tail stores, like Shop­pers Stop, Life­style, Re­liance Trends, etc. The do­mes­tic mar­ket con­trib­utes 80% to­wards Wood­land’s busi­ness, while ex­ports con­trib­ute 20%. As it is one of the first com­pa­nies to start the sin­gle­brand store in In­dia, Wood­land does not be­lieve in fran­chis­ing. The ex­clu­sive stores act as a foun­da­tion for the brand and help it to con­trol its po­si­tion and qual­ity through an ex­pan­sive dis­play of its prod­uct line. There has been a sea change in how the cus­tomer con­nects with the prod­uct since the ad­vent of the brand in In­dia, and the com­pany has adapted it­self to meet the needs of the cus­tomer. The brand be­lieves in the best pos­si­ble cus­tomer out­reach and wants to be present where the cus­tomer is. Cur­rently, Wood­land has 600 com­pany- owned stores in In­dia and has plans of a yearly ex­pan­sion of around 50–60 stores. The brand is also slowly in­creas­ing its store sizes to ac­com­mo­date the changed prod­uct line. Though footwear re­mains the flag­ship seg­ment of Wood­land, the share of ap­par­els and ac­ces­sories is grow­ing and to­day ac­counts for 40% of the over­all sales.

Typ­i­cally, a Wood­land store can range be­tween 2,000–3,000 sq ft. The brand not only has a ro­bust pres­ence in big cities but also plans to in­vest in stores in Tier III and IV cities in In­dia. The in­crease in dis­pos­able in­comes and the aware­ness about Wood­land through var­i­ous on­line plat­forms have paved the way for its en­try into Tier III and IV cities and cur­rently 30% of its rev­enue share comes from non-met­ros cities.

Wood­land be­lieves that con­stant in­no­va­tion and align­ing it­self to the cus­tomers’ needs is what has kept them go­ing strong. Since the ma­jor tar­get seg­ment of the brand is the youth, there is an in­crease in de­mand for ad­ven­ture prod­ucts in In­dia. Keep­ing th­ese things in mind, the com­pany has ex­panded its prod­uct line and has now started to sell pre­mium ad­ven­ture and out­door equip­ment for sports such as hik­ing, bik­ing, trekking, climb­ing, fish­ing, camp­ing and paraglid­ing. This ad­vanced prod­uct range is par­tic­u­larly de­signed for peo­ple who love ex­pe­di­tions, out­door sports and ad­ven­ture.

It is this phi­los­o­phy of ‘be present where the cus­tomer is’ that has made Wood­land’s brand re­call very strong and has trans­lated in its strate­gic de­ci­sion mak­ing process. Wood­land took to the on­line plat­form in 2013–2014 and de­vel­oped its own re­tail web­site to cap­ture the chang­ing re­tail mar­ket. To­day, the brand sells its prod­ucts through var­i­ous for­mats like malls, high streets, and Wood­land’s re­tail web­site and also through ag­gre­ga­tors like Ama­zon, Myn­tra and Jabong.

This multi-chan­nel pres­ence has not only made shop­ping has­sle free but has also made the prod­uct more ac­ces­si­ble to the peo­ple. As it is not pos­si­ble to have a store in all lo­ca­tions, be­ing ac­ces­si­ble to its cus­tomers on­line from any part of the coun­try has worked in favour of the ad­ven­ture brand. Cur­rently, the on­line plat­form con­trib­utes 10% of the sales and its at­trac­tive­ness amongst cus­tomers is grow­ing con­stantly.

For in­stance, it might not be pos­si­ble to stock warm jack­ets and win­ter boots in the south­ern cities of In­dia, but be­ing able to or­der the prod­uct on­line through any of Wood­land’s for­mats makes it eas­ily avail­able to the cus­tomers. On the other hand, hav­ing an on­line pres­ence also saves the com­pany from the woes of sky­rock­et­ing rents, com­pli­ance is­sues and stock main­te­nance in stores. The mid­dle­man also is elim­i­nated in an on­line plat­form and it gives the brand an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act di­rectly with the cus­tomer through var­i­ous so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

How­ever, as tech­nol­ogy ad­vances, just be­ing present in dif­fer­ent for­mats are not enough. Wood­land has re­alised that a multi-chan­nel ap­proach might in­crease its cus­tomer out­reach but it does not guar­an­tee con­ver­sions if the cus­tomer does not have an in­te­grated shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. The brand is cur­rently work­ing on its tech­nol­ogy, so that all plat­forms and de­vices that the cus­tomer uses to in­ter­act with the com­pany are ac­counted for. This knowl­edge will thus be used to help Wood­land give a seam­less in­te­grated shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence to its cus­tomers.

Wood­land is con­stantly al­ter­ing its omni-chan­nel ap­proach to adapt to the mar­ket and since it is a rel­a­tively new busi­ness model, it has its ini­tial hic­cups. Tech­nol­ogy plays a very im­por­tant role in the smooth func­tion­ing of this model. Given that the con­cept is so dy­namic and nascent, con­stant upgra­da­tion and in­te­gra­tion of re­tail for­mats with the sup­ply chain – ware­hous­ing, ven­dors, and distrib­u­tors – with tech­nol­ogy is very vi­tal for its suc­cess.

Wood­land is work­ing on up­grad­ing its tech­nol­ogy and is try­ing to bring its ex­ist­ing di­vi­sions like ex­port, key store, and dis­tri­bu­tion on the same plat­form for a seam­less shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Wood­land as a brand be­lieves that the omni-chan­nel model of re­tail­ing is here to stay and that the way for­ward to max­imise their rev­enue share and cus­tomer out­reach is through the omni-chan­nel ap­proach.

The com­pany also plans to raise its ex­port vol­umes by 30% in the com­ing years to con­sol­i­date its sales post the de­mon­eti­sa­tion in In­dia. As cur­rently, only 20% of Wood­land’s busi­ness comes from ex­ports, the com­pany is con­sciously try­ing to in­crease the cur­rent 80:20 ra­tio to a 50:50 busi­ness.•••

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