With three brands in the sub-premium segment, footwear company Liberty Shoes is carving out a strategy to cater to more modern consumers. Alongside, the company also plans to open 100 stores in tier 2 cities by 2020 as part of its expansion plans, Anupam Bansal, managing director, retail, Liberty Shoes tells Sesa Sen in an interview. Excerpts:
Given the conscious shift towards the rapidly increasing online market, do you see any impact on your existing outlets?
There is no denying the fact that these days people are shifting rapidly towards online market because of the ease and accessibility to the customer but everything comes with its own pros and cons. There are some benefits, which they can get only from offline market. As far as impact is concerned, our offline sales are very encouraging.
What are your plans for the offline market?
Currently, Liberty has 500 outlets across India, most of which are in the Hindi-speaking belt, primarily in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. We are planning to open about 100 stores in tier 2 and tier 3 cities by 2020 for a wider reach, while also ramping up our online presence.
Of the existing stores, at least 200 stores are company-owned and company-operated (COCO) stores, while the remaining are franchise-led. At some key markets, where the rentals are very high, franchise options do not work out.
So, we have COCO stores in these markets. For the remote and developing markets, where capital expenditure is limited and return on investment is better, we opt for the franchise route. This also helps us in keeping a balance between profit and brand building.
Has the ongoing economic slowdown affected your festive sales?
Despite a slowdown in discretionary spending, we were able to clock 8.28 per cent growth during the festive season this year led by our sub-premium sportswear brand Leap 7X.
The footwear industry is getting segmented, where people are now looking for footwear for every occasion, rather than multi-purpose shoes.
We have recently launched our AM to PM and winter collection that caters to sports, work as well as leisure.
Though, India is still at a per person consumption of two pairs annually, the market is steadily growing.
Your plans for the premium segment.
We have three sub-brands in the sub-premium category — Healers, Leap 7X as well as Lucy & Luke. Our range of products under these brands cater to both men and women and is priced 30 per cent more than our regular products. With these brands, we have just stepped into the premium segment and expect these brands to contribute about 20-30 per cent to our sales in FY2019-20.