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Wills Lifestyle Targets 50 Stores
Economic Times - 22 Oct 2009

ITC’s lifestyle retailing business is back in expansion mode for its premium Wills Lifestyle brand, after a period of holding back due to the economic slowdown. It is targeting a 100 stores by 2011-12, as well as rolling out premium concept stores in metros by next year.

ITC’s lifestyle retailing divisional chief executive Atul Chand told ET: “We were originally supposed to have 100 stores by 2010-11. But because of the slowdown, a lot of new mall projects got pushed back, which slowed down our plans. Now things are back on track and we are looking at another 12 new stores within this fiscal alone.”

Currently, Wills Lifestyle has 50 stores across 30 cities. Meanwhile, the slowdown has served as an opportunity for Wills Lifestyle to renegotiate rentals downwards by as much as 30% in existing locations.

“We have also got around 30% reductions in new places. Where earlier rentals used to constitute 20-22% of our operating costs, they now stand at 15%. All this will have a positive effect on our bottomline,” he added.

Incidentally, while Wills Lifestyle saw a single-digit growth in the last two quarters, September onwards, it has been witnessing a 10%-plus growth.

“In smaller cities, the growth has been as much as 15%. Going forward, we will be opening stores in Tier II and Tier III cities including Indore, Nasik, Coimbatore and Nagpur through the franchisee route,” said Mr Chand. Wills Lifestyle is also aiming to launch some 5-7 premium concept stores in high-street locations in metros about a year down.

“These stores will have a stronger lifestyle association. Unlike our existing flagship stores which are about 2,500 sq ft, these concept stores will be about 6,000 sq ft, complete with a bigger range of products, higher-end service, bespoke tailoring, lounge area and a more premium experience. We are looking at its imagery effects to percolate down to the entire brand,” said Mr Chand.

Having successfully opened a Wills Lifestyle boutique store in ITC Maurya, New Delhi, two similar stores will be coming up at ITC hotels in Bangalore and Agra this fiscal.

“In three years, we intend to have 10 such Wills Lifestyle stores across ITC hotels nationally. These give us a great opportunity to reach out to the premium and super-premium clientele in our own hotels,” he said.

Click here to know more about the Lifestyle Retailing Business