Mother­care's Suc­cess Mantra: Cham­pi­oning Qual­ity and Safety

In a can­did tête-à-tête with An­shu Grover Bhogra, the Buy­ing and Plan­ning Head of Mother­care, a UK-based kidswear re­tailer and a well-known name in In­dia, Ap­parel On­line un­rav­els its unique strate­gies for suc­cess in the on­go­ing, com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

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The kidswear ap­parel seg­ment thrives on the promise of safe and qual­ity cloth­ing un­like adult fash­ion, which has a strong in­flu­ence of de­tail­ing and styling. Mul­ti­fold guide­lines are laid out year af­ter year to de­fine the dos and don’ts for kidswear ap­parel from the big­gest de­tails such as fab­ric tex­ture and feel to the small­est ones such as the shape of a but­ton or the length of a draw­string. The qual­ity as­pects have to be ex­cel­lent as lit­tle de­tails like nee­dle de­tec­tion and abra­sion re­sis­tance of fab­rics hold the ut­most im­por­tance. The fo­cus lies more on the feel of the gar­ment rather than on colour, style or other de­tails. This fact alone res­onates with the suc­cess of Mother­care, the brand that has been ex­em­plary in cham­pi­oning qual­ity over op­u­lence.

Es­tab­lished in 1961, Mother­care is a Bri­tish kidswear ap­parel and life­style re­tailer that has since then be­come a pi­o­neer in the field of kidswear cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories glob­ally. Within a short pe­riod since its in­cep­tion in In­dia in 2009, it has suc­cess­fully made a mark in the In­dian re­tail in­dus­try as one the most pop­u­lar brands in kidswear ap­parel, es­pe­cially for the di­vi­sion that caters to tod­dlers and in­fants. The brand is an ex­am­ple for all the in­ter­na­tional brands that are re­tail­ing in In­dia while stay­ing strictly true to their in­ter­na­tional roots. “Pre­mium qual­ity and a re­la­tion­ship with con­sumers based on trust and loy­alty are the fo­cus ar­eas of the com­pany,” em­pha­sised An­shu. Ac­cord­ing to her, the brand’s jour­ney so far re­flects a busi­ness model that cashes on ex­clu­sive qual­ity and safety pro­vi­sions while in­vest­ing on ed­u­cat­ing the cus­tomers to es­tab­lish a long-term re­la­tion­ship with them.

An­shu avers fur­ther on this, “We want a long as­so­ci­a­tion with both the mother and the child. The prod­ucts we keep in store are of A+ qual­ity and we make sure that the child is safe. We have fea­tures like Nickel-free pop­per but­tons. We avoid use of la­bels as they are un­com­fort­able against the child’s sen­si­tive skin. There are sev­eral fea­tures and prod­ucts that are very child-friendly and mother-friendly too. This is what we fo­cus on.” An­other fac­tor that can be at­trib­uted to the brand’s suc­cess is the sig­nif­i­cant shift from un­or­gan­ised sec­tor to cor­po­ra­tised re­tail which falls in line with the re­cent buy­out that made Mother­care come un­der the um­brella of Re­liance Brands Lim­ited. The cor­po­ra­tised re­tail sec­tor con­sti­tuted 22 per cent of the In­dian mar­ket in 2016.

Since then, it has grown about

7 per cent year-on-year.

“We achieve par­ents’ trust by cre­at­ing prod­ucts that are very child-friendly, es­pe­cially with fea­tures like nick­le­free pop­pers and zero us­age of la­bels.” – An­shu Grover Bhogra, Head of Buy­ing & Plan­ning, Mother­care

ZERO COM­PE­TI­TION IN THE TOD­DLERS’ SEG­MENT

The new­borns’ cat­e­gory is Mother­care’s strength as it of­fers a com­fort­able as­sort­ment of clothes that cater to the ba­sic needs of the mother fo­cus­ing on qual­ity over fash­ion de­tails, as An­shu men­tions, “Un­til the age of three, the mother is shop­ping for the child and she fo­cuses more on qual­ity and safety of the gar­ments. Other re­tail­ers might of­fer tod­dlers’ cloth­ing but the stress on qual­ity gives us an edge. Any­one can sell a sleep­suit at Rs. 199 but giv­ing a qual­ity prod­uct at that price is crit­i­cal. Thus, our new­born seg­ment doesn’t have com­pe­ti­tion in In­dian mar­ket, and it caters to 50 per cent of our rev­enue.”

The Mother­care prod­uct mix boasts of three best per­form­ing cat­e­gories: In­fants (for kids till the age of 18 months); Baby Fash­ion (for the age group from 3 months to 36 months); and fi­nally, Ju­nior Fash­ion which com­prises just 15 per cent of the lot (the age group from 3 to 8-year old). There is an over­lap of four sizes for the last two di­vi­sions but their sig­na­tures vary when it comes to colours and styles.

TIER-1 AND TIER-2: A BAL­ANCE OF BUSI­NESS AND AS­PI­RA­TION

Not just lim­ited to pre­mium ap­parel, the brand also of­fers a plethora of kidswear ac­ces­sories, toys and life­style prod­ucts and houses sev­eral brands such as Graco, Philips Avent, Ergo Baby, Medela, Mer­i­for, Pi­geon, Rekaro, Snuz, etc. From trav­el­ling car seats to sip­pers and di­a­per bags, Mother­care is a one-stop so­lu­tion store for par­ents.

How­ever, such a di­verse prod­uct col­lec­tion comes with com­plex­i­ties re­lated to de­mands as the re­tailer has to find a bal­ance be­tween the Tier-1, Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

The needs of the cus­tomers in each of these vary with the life­styles they have. The Tier-1 cus­tomer is bound to re­act bet­ter to high value items such as combo sets and travel ac­ces­sories, as they have the ex­penses sorted ac­cord­ingly. Thus, the re­tail­ers pre­fer es­tab­lish­ing a re­la­tion­ship with Tier-2 cus­tomers be­fore in­tro­duc­ing such items. “Hav­ing a strong fo­cus on the prod­uct mix to in­duct the cus­tomer is very im­por­tant. In met­ros, peo­ple can spend Rs. 2,499 on a pack of three T-shirts, but the same price point won’t work for places like Luc­know. We can sell three T-shirts in­di­vid­u­ally; it works bet­ter there and then we can go on to in­crease the prod­ucts and prices as the cus­tomer gets used to the brand,” says An­shu.

About 80 per cent of the brand’s pres­ence re­sides in the metro cities and they are striv­ing to ex­pand busi­ness av­enues through their ex­ist­ing stores in cities like Kan­pur, In­dore, Su­rat as well as new open­ings in Tier-3 seg­ment. An­shu clearly states that the core busi­ness lies in Tier-1 as cus­tomers are aware about the brand and have ac­cess to dis­pos­able in­come but Tier2 and Tier-3 cities also show im­mense po­ten­tial when it comes to cus­tomer’s as­pi­ra­tion, “We def­i­nitely do bet­ter in met­ros.

But, if busi­ness lies in Tier-1, then as­pi­ra­tion lies in Tier-2 and Tier3 cities. The way to cap­ture the lat­ter’s as­pi­ra­tion is by hav­ing more

A shift to­wards char­ac­ter prod­ucts is be­ing seen as Mickey, Min­nie, Peppa Pig, etc. which sell good. Value ad­di­tion at the ba­sic level of fab­ric it­self, is def­i­nitely a trend now.

Peo­ple are mov­ing to­wards smart ca­su­als. Even semi-for­mals will be sell­ing well for par­ty­wear, like boys nowa­days wear smart shirts with bows etc.

Mother­care stores in those cities and by pro­vid­ing a dif­fer­ent prod­uct mix. It’s a play of want ver­sus need.”

A MOD­ER­ATELY PRICED BRAND WHICH SELLS AT LIST PRICE

Mother­care re­cently saw a change in man­age­ment as Re­liance Brands Lim­ited ac­quired the re­tailer un­der its um­brella. Thus, the brand has now ap­plied sev­eral pol­icy changes ac­cord­ing to the new con­glom­er­ate it be­longs to. The big­gest ini­tia­tive of this ac­qui­si­tion has been the com­plete shift from a very strong dis­count struc­ture to a non-dis­count

brand where dis­counts and mark­downs are lim­ited to the End of Sea­son Sale pe­riod.

An­shu ex­plains how this es­tab­lishes Mother­care as a pow­er­ful brand that be­lieves in cor­rect pric­ing for ex­tra­or­di­nary qual­ity of prod­ucts by say­ing, “We want to main­tain the stan­dards. We are priced very rea­son­ably as Mother­care is not a lux­ury brand, so there is no scope for mark­downs.”

THE SHIFT OF SOURC­ING AND RE­TAIL IN IN­DIA AND BANGLADESH

Mother­care fol­lows a sys­tem­atic de­sign, sourc­ing, devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion sys­tem that is fol­lowed glob­ally. A de­sign team, based out of UK, de­cides the styles for both fash­ion and core seg­ments ev­ery sea­son.

The Mother­care In­dia team vis­its the head­quar­ters ev­ery three months to choose the as­sort­ment to be re­tailed in In­dia. This process hap­pens eight months prior to the launch as the global team utilises this time for sourc­ing, pro­duc­tion and the fi­nal pro­cure­ment. An­shu iden­ti­fied Tirupur as a strong sourc­ing hub for Mother­care’s en­tire global sup­ply as about 40 per cent of the range comes from In­dia, es­pe­cially ba­sics, such as knit­ted T-shirts and body­suits. Con­versely, Bangladesh is an­other strong sourc­ing hub for the brand that pro­vides about 38 per cent of its sup­ply which in­clude denim pieces such as bot­toms, dun­ga­rees, value ad­di­tion ap­plique, etc. The brand also sources high-qual­ity trims from UK and China.

An­shu pos­i­tively con­cludes re­fer­ring to the shift in sourc­ing pat­terns by Mother­care, “Base is shift­ing from In­dia to Bangladesh just for one rea­son – bet­ter qual­ity and bet­ter prices. It is cheaper as there are no im­port du­ties. This shift is not a bad news for our coun­try as it is hap­pen­ing due to the fact that In­dia is shift­ing to­wards a more re­tail-ori­ented mar­ket and will be at par with coun­tries like China as the big­gest re­tail hub in a few years’ time.”

“A kid is born ev­ery 51 sec­onds in In­dia and Mother­care can cater to 1% of that pop­u­la­tion. The busi­ness is im­mense in the sec­tor. The dis­tri­bu­tion might be lim­ited for now, but it can be in­creased to el­e­vate the busi­ness up to 10 times. Cus­tomers know the brand; it just has to reach out to them. Re­tail com­pa­nies might not be mak­ing too much money, thanks to the high rental of the in­dus­try. How­ever, hav­ing the right mix, right peo­ple and the right kind of mar­ket­ing is the fu­ture for re­tail.”

A Mother­care store

Mother­care baby gar­ments

Mother­care girls’ gar­ments

Tod­dler ba­sics promis­ing safety and qual­ity

Mother­care life­style prod­ucts

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