Nagesh C, Pan­taloons Fash­ion and Re­tail Limited

Pan­taloons, the newly ac­quired fash­ion brand of The Aditya Birla Group, has been a pre­ferred choice of to­day’s gen­er­a­tion since its launch in 1997. Hav­ing a fash­ion spread of 28000 sq. ft. the brand has 81 stores across 40 cities which has re­de­fined the s

VM&RD - - CONTENTS - Nabamita Chat­ter­jee

What is the ba­sic re­tail de­sign strat­egy in­tro­duced by Pan­taloons af­ter the brand was shifted from the Fu­ture Group to the Aditya Birla Group?

Pan­taloons has played the quin­tes­sen­tial role of mod­ernising the In­dian con­sumers and helped them evolve by of­fer­ing var­ied brands and mer­chan­dise at great value. Post the trans­fer of man­age­ment rights from the Fu­ture Group, we are in the process of build­ing on strengths and ex­ploit­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties for now and the years to come. Com­ing to the point on re­tail de­sign strat­egy, we would be fo­cus­ing on tai­lor made re­tail de­sign im­prove­ments to bring in crit­i­cal facets of the store ex­pe­ri­ence. At the same time we would be look­ing at the next 3 years on the aes­thetic strat­egy to not only bring up the re­tail­ing stan­dards in In­dia but also de­light our cus­tomers with a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence that's very own Pan­taloons. The store de­sign pri­mar­ily was built as a mod­ern-fast-fash­ion re­tail con­cept with an at­tempt to give a dis­tinct treat­ment for each of the de­part­ments with a touch of warmth added through cer­tain el­e­ments of de­sign. How­ever when we looked at de­liv­er­ing the new busi­ness vi­sion and prom­ise to the cus­tomers the store de­sign needed a bit of tweak­ing. Pan­taloons' new vi­sion stands for: "exclusive brands, fash­ion­able mer­chan­dise and great value". Hence the re­tail de­sign must deliver- brand ex­pe­ri­ence, fix­tures must deliver fash­ion­able mer­chan­dise through co­or­di­nated en­sem­bles and com­mu­ni­cate great value fash­ion­ably in the vi­tal touch points of the worlds. There­fore the im­me­di­ate re­tail de­sign strat­egy is to look at -

(a) brand­ing: brand spe­cific props, brand mark­ing, brand spe­cific el­e­va­tions, brand vi­su­als - to sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove brand pre­sen­ta­tion. (b) Re­spon­sive fix­ture de­sign, floor re-lay out­ing, con­tem­po­rary man­nequins, clus­ter and fo­cal point as­sem­bly, light­ing etc, - to deliver fash­ion store ex­pe­ri­ence. (c) Con­tem­po­rary cash n wrap, cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ment, ef­fec­tive sig­nage sys­tem

- to es­tab­lish the new im­age and value propo­si­tion.

How do the var­i­ous de­sign el­e­ments trans­late into busi­ness ben­e­fits in terms of sales for Pan­taloons?

In my view any­thing you do around the brand has two im­por­tant de­liv­er­ables. One is cus­tomer prom­ise de­liv­ered through ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the brand which in turn trans­lates in to brand build­ing, and the sec­ond is busi­ness goals. Well, both have to be de­liv­ered 100%, not one over the other. The de­sign el­e­ments at store are im­pro­vised in or­der to deliver both the above. Let's take the ex­am­ple of sig­nif­i­cantly im­prov­ing the brand pre­sen­ta­tion for Annabelle or Tr­ishaa, for which we in­tro­duced em­bossed brand plates, brand spe­cific props, new brand im­agery through high point vi­su­als, cus­tomised brand el­e­va­tions and pre­sented the brands with sea­sonal planograms with colour block­ing and sug­ges­tive co­or­di­nates etc, This is clearly show­ing re­sults in in­creased brand trac­tion and recog­ni­tion. While in the short term it is show­ing im­prove­ment in sales around 20%, it would also deliver eq­uity for each of the exclusive brands at the store. Like­wise the con­tem­po­rary man­nequins, which usu­ally played a role of style and trend ed­u­ca­tors for our cus­tomers. What is dis­played on the man­nequins have al­ways moved faster re­sult­ing in bet­ter sell than through the mer­chan­dised dis­played on SKU’s.

What has been your ap­proach to the use of store de­sign as a busi­ness tool? Any real ex­pe­ri­ence you can cite which de­cides on the as­pect of bud­get­ing for VM and for spe­cific as­pects such as floor­ing, light­ing, man­nequins etc.

Store de­sign does re­spond to busi­ness goals in terms of cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture as well as top line tar­gets. If the capex is man­aged tightly with de­sign and ma­te­rial so­lu­tions, ei­ther we can open more stores or have con­trol on in­ter­est and de­pre­ci­a­tion. At the same time store de­sign de­liv­ered close prox­im­ity to the way we would like the mer­chan­dise to sell, then it would im­pact the top line in­vari­ably. We have been able to bring the per square feet ex­pen­di­ture down by about 5-8% with al­ter­nate ma­te­ri­als etc., with­out com­pro­mis­ing on the de­sired aes­thet­ics. We rein­vested some of the sav­ings in to LED light­ing, con­tem­po­rary man­nequins etc., For ex­am­ple, LED light­ing has been proved as best so­lu­tion of opex con­trol while in­vest­ment in the capex is higher com­pared to CDMT. We chose to go for 100% LED light­ing for 3 to 4 re­cent projects like MG Road Ban­ga­lore, Kalyan, Sea­sons Mall Pune stores. An­other ex­am­ple is, ear­lier we had higher floor dis­play ver­sus wall dis­play. This re­sulted in to wall con­tri­bu­tion be­ing low com­pared to floor. And also floor looked too clut­tered, where the cus­tomers used to find it dif­fi­cult to browse through. At present, we have in­creased wall dis­play ca­pac­ity by about 20% at an aver­age, which frees up a bit of space on the floor which is show­ing good re­sults. Also now the brand wise tar­gets for the week are sharply mon­i­tored with sharp es­ti­mates on ROS.

What has been the big­gest chal­lenge for Pan­taloons in the In­dian re­tail mar­ket in terms of sat­is­fy­ing In­ter­nal cus­tomers?

At the core of its ex­is­tence Pan­taloons has been able to bring moder­nity to In­dian cus­tomers with ease of shop­ping and an en­vi­ron­ment which is not in­tim­i­dat­ing. Con­vert­ing cus­tomers from tai­lor made to ready­made, con­vert­ing In­dian women to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing western wear with­out shed­ding their mod­esty, al­low­ing men to come out of their stereo­type one look for all oc­ca­sions to oc­ca­sion spe­cific wardrobe so­lu­tions, eclec­tic and ap­peal­ing kidswear, in­duct­ing cus­tomers in to fash­ion ac­ces­sories, life­style and groom­ing prod­ucts has made Pan­taloons a friend and a guide to moder­nity for most In­dian men, women, and that too at an ac­ces­si­ble price. The chal­lenge now is that the mar­kets are shift­ing, cus­tomers are hav­ing choice be­tween var­i­ous re­tail for­mats. Un­less one is rel­e­vant and con­stantly up­grad­ing to the cus­tomer needs by cap­tur­ing con­sumer in­sights and mar­ket re­al­i­ties, one would not be able to re­tain the base and at­tract new walk-ins to con­vert. Pan­taloons, has been a very strong brand in con­sumers' mind. The chal­lenge now is to give them dif­fer­en­tial and very own Pan­taloons ex­pe­ri­ence with a new twist and new story. That's why we are fo­cus­ing now on branded fash­ion in­stead of fash­ion.

How have the VM Team been able to get ex­po­sure to global store de­sign trends and prac­tice?

It is very im­por­tant to be up­dated on global trends on store de­sign and VM and at the same time be in tune with what is hap­pen­ing to the re­tail land­scape in In­dia. We visit In­ter­na­tional re­tail in Lon­don, Dubai and Hong Kong ev­ery 6 months to cap­ture up­dates in like­minded re­tail stores and also bench­mark re­tail. Also sub­scrip­tions to WGSN also help un­der­stand trends in store, VM, store de­sign and re­tail ther­apy. Also, Euroshop is a must too.

How im­por­tant is the need for re­tail de­sign­ers to in­te­grate with vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing and vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tion when it comes to a brand like Pan­taloons?

What has been your ex­pe­ri­ence on this front in the In­dian con­text?

In­ter­na­tion­ally the prac­tice has been work­ing in silo, as they are treated as ex­perts with sharp view point. I think it's all about seam­less­ness and work­ing to­gether like a team to deliver de­sired set of re­sults. My role crit­i­cally is to link all the pieces to­gether, like a thread in the beads to make a beau­ti­ful neck­piece. We work to­wards de­liv­er­ing con­cept to con­sumer with pu­rity of thought. There­fore at Pan­taloons re­tail de­sign­ers, vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ers, vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­perts work hand in hand to en­sure that the syn­ergy comes alive at the stores.

What has been Pan­taloons ex­pe­ri­ence with im­ple­men­ta­tion of de­sign con­cepts with In­dian re­sources?

We had about 30% of items sourced from abroad for spe­cific fin­ishes and qual­ity in store de­sign. But to­day we can say that we have been able to source mostly from In­dia ex­cept for some key items which are not read­ily avail­able. In­dian ven­dors have been able to progress and have been able to in­vest in their R&D, in­fra­struc­ture, re­source man­age­ment, ca­pac­ity aug­men­ta­tion and tech­ni­cal talent pool, thus, we now look at In­dian re­sources to deliver stores within stip­u­lated dead­lines. For ex­am­ple, we are open­ing 14 new stores in FY14 and look­ing at ex­pand­ing the store count to 106 by the end of FY15. With such ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion plans we look at our ven­dors in In­dia as part­ners in growth and cut the long lead times of tran­sit.

What do you think of the talent re­sources for train­ing and learn­ing avail­able in In­dia for Re­tail de­sign?

As we all are aware, in In­dia the spurt in re­tail has taken place only with boom in real es­tate through malls and is still a less-than-10 years phe­nom­e­non. Hence the talent can­not be fully avail­able in­dige­nously. There­fore there are in­ter­na­tional de­sign firms ei­ther di­rectly or col­lab­o­ra­tion with In­dian part­ners and have set up their of­fices to of­fer store de­sign, VM, brand­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices in In­dia. While it's not the ques­tion of re­sources or learn­ing avail­able in In­dia, the real ques­tion is the "trans­la­tion of brief". In my view de­sign means so­lu­tion. It's ap­plied arts, hence the trans­la­tion of brief is im­por­tant to deliver busi­ness goals as well as brand ex­pe­ri­ence. Most of the time one just wants to repli­cate the lat­est trends in In­ter­na­tional store de­sign, while what's right is to ap­pro­pri­ate the de­sign el­e­ments to deliver your brand prom­ise and ex­pe­ri­ence at re­tail. It has still a large scope of im­prove­ment as far as In­dia is con­cerned.

What has been the im­pact of glob­al­iza­tion on In­dian re­tail de­sign? Please give us some ex­am­ples with re­spect to Pan­taloons as a well recog­nised ap­parel brand.

There has been a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact of glob­al­iza­tion on In­dian re­tail de­sign and Pan­taloons is in­cluded in that. Pan­taloons, started as a large for­mat dis­count store in late 90's with store de­sign hav­ing a ‘look n feel’ to up­grade cus­tomers from street shop­ping to or­gan­ised re­tail. In the mid­dle of last decade it trans­formed as an al­ter­nate des­ti­na­tion as fam­ily store to up­grade cus­tomers from typ­i­cal MBOs mush­room­ing. In the year 2010 it fi­nally trans­formed as a fash­ion des­ti­na­tion for young In­dia with store de­sign de­vel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a renowned Ger­man de­sign firm. The fresh fash­ion prom­ise by Pan­taloons is to deliver fast fash­ion at an ac­ces­si­ble price point. Hence the store de­sign main­tains the look and feel as a mod­ern day fast fash­ion re­tail chain at the same time main­tains the quin­tes­sen­tial In­dian eth­nic­ity which Pan­taloons de­rives in­spi­ra­tion from. So we are in a way deeply im­pacted by glob­al­i­sa­tion to keep pace with chang­ing life­style needs of In­dian con­sumer to keep par­ity with food, cars, elec­tron­ics, mo­biles and real es­tate makeovers in the coun­try.

How do you plan to use in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies in-store for greater shop­per ex­pe­ri­ence as part of the whole store feel.

We are in the process of study­ing suit­able in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to bring func­tional so­lu­tions to our cus­tomers. It is still at a pre­lim­i­nary stage, but for sure we know the im­por­tance and we would be look­ing at such tools to de­light our cus­tomers. As of now we have added dig­i­tal screens through a renowned me­dia part­ner to en­able ef­fec­tive fash­ion com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the stores to project sea­sonal fash­ion trends, cam­paign vi­su­als and be­hind the scenes etc.,

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

At Pan­taloons, we be­lieve in con­sumer en­gage­ment by con­nect­ing with them at an emo­tional plat­form. That is why de­liv­er­ing in­tan­gi­bles like warmth and feel good fac­tor in re­tail store de­sign be­comes a para­mount. That's in our DNA and we en­gage with our cus­tomers ev­ery day. As we say no one un­der­stands In­dian cus­tomers' fash­ion needs the way we do at Pan­taloons -- "Pan­taloons... in love with fash­ion"

Nagesh C Head De­sign & Vis­ual Mer­chan­dis­ing Pan­taloons Fash­ion and Re­tail Limited

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