Spencer’s is trying its hand at a homegrown apparel
label, one more time. The grocery retail chain, headquartered in Kolkata, is targeting the budget consumer with a label called 2Bme for children, men and women to be priced between Rs 199-1,299. But given its experience with clothing lines in the past and the fact that groceries and clothes rarely fit in the same shopping basket, experts say that the RP-Sanjiv Goenka
owned chain has a tough climb ahead.
To be fair, private labels across the world are staple fare for supermarket store chains. Walmart has over six, Macy’s has several and in India, Fashion
at Big Bazaar, Reliance Trends are among other retail-store-owned apparel
brands. These are all aimed at the budget-conscious buyer, the same category that Spencer’s has targeted its brand at.
Spencer’s has set a lot in store by its newly launched 2Bme line and is counting on the clothes label to boost the group’s overall retail operations. It is counting on higher margins (from apparel) to help beat the losses that it has incurred in the grocery business and also believes that the label could eventually become an independent and national brand.
“Initially it will be available only in Spencer’s and based on how it performs we will consider turning it into a business vertical in the group,” Shashwat Goenka, head of the retail sector at RP-Sanjiv Goenka
Group said. Based on the response in the coming couple of seasons, Goenka will also take a call on taking the brand to retail outlets outside Kolkata.
Goenka says that the apparel
business will contribute 5.5 per cent of the total sales and 10 per cent to the bottom line for Spencer’s in the very first year of introduction. What makes him so confident, given that the group has not been able to make a success out of its past forays into apparel?
It had two private labels, Island Monks and Asankhya, but neither found enough customers and both were taken off the shelves just before the launch of 2Bme.
Goenka says that they have been cautious this time around. Extensive consumer research was undertaken for more than a year and the group also employed more than 60 fashion
designers to keep in step with latest trends. “Keeping in mind the diversity of preferences, we have given special attention based on several research and surveys in different parts of the country,” Goenka said. He says that the stores will replace the entire apparel
stock on the shelf every 15 days to create a continuous flow of new products. He is also confident that the group has got the pricing right; kids’ wear starts at Rs 199, women’s wear at Rs 249 and menswear at Rs 299. The most expensive purchase under the brand would be Rs 1,299 for denim wear for men.
However people look for more than price points when it comes to apparel, say experts. Many also believe that Spencer’s has not gone about the launch in the right manner and that it ought to have taken a leaf out of the books of online brands. Brand expert (Pops) KV Sridhar said that it would have been best to launch the brand online and not associate it with grocery retail. He believes that would have given the brand a national character and positioned 2Bme as a standalone apparel
brand right from the beginning. “After all how many people visit a grocery store to buy apparel,” he wonders. A similar concern is raised by Ramesh Thomas, president of management consultancy firm Equitor. “I can’t think of Indians walking into a store which sells frozen foods and vegetables to buy clothes in particular,” he said.
Sridhar predicts that the newly launched brand runs the risk of a similar fate like the discontinued Spencer’s brands. Thomas says that this seems more like a decision taken to bring more footfalls into the retail stores rather than build a new brand. However, he adds, “Instances of apparel
brand launches in grocery stores are not unheard of globally, but there might be some disconnect in the Indian context. What needs to be watched is will the footfall increase after the brand’s launch?”
Goenka believes that the manner in which the group has designed the brand, keeping price and trendiness in mind, will help beat the odds. Apart from providing shoppers with a new set of products every fortnight (typically the period between store visits for groceries), it is also working out a system where there is a constant upgrading of styles based on international trends. He believes that mass market brands or fast fashion
labels need to move fast as people abhor staleness when it comes to regular ready-to-wear clothes.
It is also important to keep distribution in focus as that “is the key here like any other business and the product sales need to happen through a proper channel,” said Sridhar. In the introductory phase, Goenka has decided to bank on Spencer’s stronghold in Kolkata, which will be followed by the brand being launched in the stores in Delhi NCR, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam and Chennai. But for that, the brand will have to first work its magic on the home turf.