WACOAL DISCLOSES WHAT IS DRIVING EBOS IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS
Wacoal was founded in Japan in 1949 by Koichi Tsukamoto. His goal was to bring beautiful intimate apparel to women across the globe that would offer a higher level of excellence and innovation to the industry. He was extraordinarily successful building teams of like-minded designers, researchers, merchants and others who together have created the Wacoal brand with global reach. In 1964, Wacoal established the Human Science Research Center as an organisation dedicated to scientific research on women’s beauty. Known for its superior fit, quality and exceptional craftsmanship, the brand, today, has metamorphosed into a global leader in the luxury lingerie market, with footprints in over 66 countries and regions including North America, Europe and Asia. The brand forayed into India in 2015 with the same dedication to excellence and innovation by partnering with Periwinkle Fashions, the flagship company of the Tainwala Group. Wacoal India Pvt. Ltd., is a joint-venture between Periwinkle and Wacoal International Hong Kong Co. Ltd. and is headquartered in Mumbai.
As a new brand in India Wacoal had a philosophy that was quite simple and unique—make the best fitting and most comfortable products with high-quality materials and workmanship backed by world-class service. The lingerie brand made its much-awaited debut in India by opening its first store in Mumbai last year. Wacoal presented its complete collection at High Street Phoenix premium retail destination and one of the best inner-city locations in Mumbai in a new design. Having cemented a leading position in South-East Asia’s high-end lingerie market, Wacoal as a group, last year decided to actively extend its brand overseas using India’s formidable and international position. Presently, Wacoal has over seven EBOs across India; three in Mumbai, one in Pune, one in Delhi, and two in Chennai. Dedicated to providing beautiful, well-fitted high-quality lingerie, the collection includes trendy everyday lingerie solutions along with indulgent, yet accessible up-to-the-minute fashion pieces as well. The brand’s product basket for the Indian market is the same as other international markets. It offers an assortment of bra, panty, shapewear, and sleepwear. The bra collection ranges from basic, bralette, minimiser, spacer, seamless, wired, non-wired padded, push-up, strapless, sports and occasion wear.
The collection of panties ranges from briefs, bikinis, thongs, hipsters, tangas, and boyshorts. Wacoal being the only brand to offer bras for teenagers, also has a range of everyday wear with a dash of lace and floral prints for the young, fashion conscious, working women. Its sportswear category is well-designed for women looking at comfortable and supportive bra for their activity routine. He also shares that the average Wacoal price for these items is ` 2,500 with overall product lineup ranging from ` 1,500 to ` 5,000. The lace collection has gained popularity amongst occasion wear shoppers.
In conversation with Sandeep Goenka, Chief Executive Officer, Periwinkle Fashions.
Which is better, a better retail format. MBO (Multi Brand Outlets) or EBO (Exclusive Brand Outlet)
Sandeep Goenka: We prefer EBOs over MBOs and keep the customers’ focus on our brand.
Retailers need to enhance their value proposition to suit their customer experience and convenience. With exclusive and multi-brand models competing in the market, which format would be more beneficial for brands and retailers?
SG: We definitely feel that EBOs work the magic for us. Lingerie, the product category in itself is very tricky and it is extremely important for the customer to feel and try the product and what better way than an EBO. Another plus point is that we aren’t limited in any sense to display the products we want to and connect directly with the consumer.
In your experience, what motivates lingerie shoppers to seek out new brands?
SG: Customers these days are seeking more knowledge than ever, they also aren’t shy anymore and want to try new things. When it comes to lingerie, shoppers are always looking for comfort and style, all put together in one product.
What is the mindset the brand goes through in selecting a perfect location for its EBO? What are the basic requirements?
SG: There are many criteria that the location needs to fulfil in order for us to finalise the location. Some of them are—accessibility and popularity of the mall and the location, overall footfall of the mall, purchasing power of the shoppers at the mall, and most importantly, to see if our competitors are present in the mall already, we do like a little bit of a healthy competition.
How can brands earn the trust and sales of new visitors?
SG: It’s extremely difficult to gain trust and loyalty of new visitors; hence, we try to give them what they want. We listen to them and give them the deserved attention. We request them to try our products first rather than pushing the sale. We make them feel safe and give them a personalised experience with the right shopping ambiance. And last but not the least, we guide them with the right products and understanding their exact needs.
What role do customer reviews play in lingerie shoppers’ purchase decisions?
SG: It plays a major role in the minds of the lingerie shoppers. It is first-hand review from a customer, hence it automatically becomes a testimonial of sorts and helps all the fence sitters to make that jump in to purchasing the products and experiencing the brand for themselves.
What challenges do EBO’s face in the lingerie industry? How does a brand go about improving their presence?
SG: EBOs can be a challenge, as they have a higher investment percentage. The brand exposure also can be limited to the EBO and the mall only, unlike department stores.
So how does a traditional EBO figure out how to create value?
SG: We create value in our EBOs by equipping our stores with highly trained and fit personnel and style experts that give the right consultation to every single customer. Our brand believes that every person has a different need and we are here to provide the right solution to each of their unique needs. Our stores are also laid out in a manner that helps the customer to easily browse through our collection along with providing the right ambiance and experience. It also helps our customers experience the luxury of shopping at a premium lingerie store.
We also have multiple in-store programmes where we tie up with Breast Cancer Awareness NGOs (Pink Ribbon Campaigns) and the proceeds of which are given to the NGOs, which in turn helps our brand give back.
What are your plans for EBO expansion?
SG: We’ve already opened Four new stores within the span of 45 days and now we’re are looking at opening 2-3 stores within the near future and 10-12 stores in the next 12 months.
What major spend areas do you feel will set the tone for the EBO industry in 2018?
SG: Visual merchandising and marketing will definitely be our spend areas, which will set the tone for 2018.
What sort of competition do EBOs face?
SG: Our only two competitors are local high street brands and brands online.
Few malls have limited EBOs to advertise lingerie outside their stores or as store displays saying it attracts the wrong kind of attention and carries out vandalism as well, how do you go around managing this?
SG: We understand our audience, and keep our visual merchandise and marketing communications simple and modest, keeping in mind everyone’s preferences while still making sure that it doesn’t lose its brand identity.
Are EBOs a great way for advertisement and creating brand awareness.?
SG: Yes, nothing like letting the customer feel and touch the product in hand.
How much does it cost to set up an EBO in India? What is the process like?
SG: The cost to set up an EBO in India varies from region to region. As far as the process of setting it up, it is extremely lengthy. Scouting for the best malls and locations, building the store and setting up the VM, hiring the right staff, sending out marketing communications, etc.
What is your outlook, are there any plans to strengthen your EBOs further?
SG: We see ourselves as strong and constantly growing and evolving. We are extremely adaptable; thus we not only have EBOs but are present in all the relevant channels of the industry. But EBOs are our main focus as of now, as we do have 15 more stores in the pipeline.