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Distilling its Indian brand mantra, Reebok will let its new store format and other marketing initiatives do the talking on fitness. It is also considering its own e-commerce platform to cater to the large Indian population. In Bangalore to launch Reebok’s first ‘FitHub’ store, Erick Haskell, managing director of its parent Adidas India, tells Antonita Madonna that Reebok will target the female sportswear buyer. Edited excerpts:
What is the growth you are hoping for?
The business model is mono-brand, franchise-operated stores, unlike in the Europe and the US where we have a multi-brand store model. The market has the capacity to accommodate 50-100 new stores this year. The forecast is for the industry to grow at a percentage in the mid-teens. Since we’re the the largest player with two big brands (Adidas and Reebok), we’re certainly going to be in the ride.
What other channels are you looking at besides stores?
We’re giving e-commerce a serious thought. We have fairly decent e-commerce through some of the largest portals in India. That has made us look at the possibility of starting our own platform. Even though China was vast, we had built a network of about 8000 stores, but that was before the e-commerce wave and it was the only way to reach the population. But things have changed a lot.
FDI reforms have not been extended to e-commerce yet. So, how will Reebok sort proceed?
We are talking to different partners on how this may work, but at the same time, we’re hopeful that the government may include e-commerce in the FDI reforms.
Will you be able to manage the logisitics?
There are many places in that can now get delivery in two days. We need to see how deep we should penetrate with physical stores and how much can be addressed through other channels.
You had also shut down stores...
We have decreased the number of stores after a rationalisation, but we’re left with a healthy portfolio from which we can continue to grow. At just under 500 stores, we want to convert the whole portfolio to our FitHub format. Every new store is in this format and others will be renovated.
Why the FitHub format?
While you may see categories like football, basketball and cricket in other stores, here you will see categories like dance, yoga and the various ways that people engage in fitness activities. We’ve also tried to give it the look and feel of a gym or studio. We have opened 33 new FitHub stores in 2013.
The whole sportswear sector has a stake in the fitness story. What are you counting on to set Reebok apart?
While we are not the only ones looking at fitness, we are concentrating on those categories that are particularly appealing to women.
We are placing emphasis on women’s fitness. In our FitHubs, there will be an entire floor dedicated to women’s fitness. We have also got one of our brand ambassadors, Nargis Fakhri, to represent our studio category. There is a huge amount of attention being given to engaging with women consumers and offering what they need for their day-to-day fitness activities.
The industry is geared towards the male sportswear consumers. What is the potential for women’s categories?
I don’t think the women’s market is being adequately addressed right now. I also think the overall fitness industry is growing, so share of merchandise for women is bound to grow.
Our store on Commercial Street (Bangalore) records 40 per cent of its business from the women’s segment. Those are numbers we’ve never seen – not even anywhere else in India, but that shows us the potential to increase the percentage of womenswear.
This may be an urban phenomenon. What about smaller towns?
To be honest, it is much slower in the rest of India, but these trends start in the metros and then trickle down to the other parts. It is a challenge to penetrate places where traditional clothes dominate.
What marketing initiatives have you picked up to restore Reebok to its earlier form?
We are driving community engagement with a view to get people to run on weekends. There are about 400 people joining us every week and we’re looking at rolling out this Reebok Running Squad nationwide after the success in Delhi. A lot of people are too busy to take time out for a fixed fitness regiment, so we have embarked on an initiative called ‘Flexercise’. Highlighted by our brand ambassador, John Abraham, it is aimed at giving practical tips on how to stay fit despite one’s busy schedules.