Interview with Divisional Chief Executive, ITC Lifestyle Retailing
Wills Lifestyle, ITC's retail fashion label, is increasing its focus on luxury and e-commerce. Atul Chand, divisional chief executive, ITC Lifestyle Retailing, tells AlokanandaChakraborty how. Edited excerpts:
You have introduced a slew of high-end concept stores to position Wills Lifestyle as an aspirational and international brand. What else do you need to do to fight with international luxury labels?
For any brand to be successful, it needs a unique recipe of differentiation based on consumer insights. At one level, this would mean forecasting and creating fashion trends of tomorrow, and, at another level, understanding the needs of the brand's loyalists.
Since inception, Wills Lifestyle has tried to be a premium, high-fashion pret brand offering products for every wardrobe need. This has been complimented with the shopping experience. Technology-based solutions that heighten the store staff's ability to be "fashion-shopping advisors" are some of the initiatives to make the experience at our stores better.
The brand is available in five Wills Lifestyle boutique stores in chosen ITC Hotels. The reward programme, Club ITC, serves as a platform to bond with premium consumers. We are also trying to enhance the premium product platforms like the Wills Classic Luxuri (super premium formals) and the Wills Classic Ecostyle collection in natural fibre. The association with the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week reinforces the premium imagery.
What about segments other than luxury?
In keeping with our understanding of the rapidly emerging consumer, we will differentiate our sub-brands like Wills Classic (formal wear), Wills Sport (casual wear), Wills Clublife (club wear) and Wills Signature (high-end occasion wear) right from the design language, imagery to retail environment. The aspiration and affluence levels in smaller markets has grown and is becoming a big driver for lifestyle retail.
How are you fighting the threat from private labels of fashion websites?
Wills Lifestyle has a multi-channel footprint. We are conscious about reaching our consumers in both the click and brick formats. The physical retail presence of Wills Lifestyle has expanded to nearly 100 exclusive stores in 40 cities and more than 700 shop-in-shops in leading departmental stores and multi-brand outlets. Supplementing our "brick" presence, we adopted the "click" channel of e-commerce some years ago, making Wills Lifestyle one of the early brands on the platform.
Shoppers are increasingly cross-navigating across the 'click' and 'brick' stores, and seeking benefits of both channels. Therefore, we intend to build on our performance aggressively with a two-pronged strategy - working with individual partners in the channel, as well as establish our own dedicated Wills e-store.
How does a brand create and sustain a property like the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week?
Organising an event of this scale takes three-four months. We work closely with the FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India).
To market it, we have tried to use technology to take the fashion week beyond its physical confines. For years, we have telecast it live at our stores, besides reaching consumers online.
In this edition, we used RFID technology to allow people to cheer for their favourite designers, share their mood, upload selfies, all at the swipe of a band at RFID zones at the venue. We distributed more than 2,000 RFID-enabled wrist bands to fashion enthusiasts and media. It created conversations leading to tremendous buzz: More than 4 million impressions, leading to 7,000-plus engagements with the brand.
The benefits of associations with such events are far more strategic. Such concerted associations, extended over a period of time, ensure that they become a part of the brand expression, than just influence the marketing. It serves as a platform for the brand to generate appeal, recognition and loyalty.