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ITC eyes 20% growth for Wills Lifestyle
Economic Times - 10 Mar 2009

ITC’s lifestyle retailing business is targeting a 20% growth for its premium Wills Lifestyle brand in 2009-10. Despite the current economic slowdown, the apparel major has lined up a slew of initiatives that include focusing more on the product side, concentrating on loyalty programmes in a big way, trying to convert more people and increase the transaction size. It is also working with people in ITC’s hotel business to train its employees in customer service.

While ITC never discloses the size of its lifestyle retail business, the company’s lifestyle retailing divisional CEO Atul Chand told ET: “Being a premium brand, Wills Lifestyle is less affected by the slowdown than our mid-market brand like John Players. Already, we have seen an improvement in sentiment in the January-March quarter compared to the October-December quarter. We hope to close 2008-09 with a 20% growth over 2007-08.” In 2007-08, the brand had registered a 25% growth over the previous year.

According to Mr Chand, some areas have been identified so that customers are encouraged to come in and shop. On the product side, Wills Lifestyle will now be offering a wider assortment of ranges with a shorter product lifecycle of 6-8 weeks, as opposed to 3-4 months earlier, so that customers find differentiation, newness and variety in the brand.

“We will also be leveraging customer loyalty and realigning marketing spends from above-the-line to areas like direct marketing and in-store promotion. We’ve always been strong on the loyalty front, but now, we will be doing special promotions and reaching out more often to our loyalty client base,” said Mr Chand.

Wills Lifestyle will also focus on converting more people and increasing the transaction size through retail activation. Towards this end, it is working with ITC hotels, which is training employees in customer service.

“We have already opened a Wills Lifestyle store in ITC Maurya, Delhi. We are also looking at exploring options in other hotel properties. This is an effort at blending synergies with the hotel team and gaining from each other’s strengths,” said Mr Chand.

On the cost front, Mr Chand added that Wills Lifestyle has been successful in getting rental revisions by as much as 30-40%, which will help the bottomline. “We are also looking at revenue sharing in new malls,” he said. On the expansion front, Wills Lifestyle is targeting 10 new stores in 2009-10. At present, it has 55 stores in 30-odd cities.

Click here to know more about the Lifestyle Retailing Business