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Wills Lifestyle's rejig bears fruit
Business Standard - 23 Jul 2008

ITC's garment retailing arm Wills Lifestyle, which embarked upon a major rejuvenation and brand makeover late last year, is tying up with budding designers, Italian fabric makers and established designers in a bid to have cost advantage and premium look.

The move is aimed at wooing the young upwardly mobile segment, which is expected to bring 30 per cent growth for the company.

The company has tied up with leading design institutes such as NIFT, NID and Pearl Academy for promoting budding designers to be selected through regional competitions.

Wills has also collaborated with international design studios Alessandra Macchi Studio (Italy) for superior quality flat knits and with Ricardo Rami Studio (Italy) for fashion wear for women.

The company is also planning to take leading Indian designers including Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Gandhi, Rahul Khanna, Manish Malhotra, Rohit Bal among others on board to showcase their products during the Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week. Their collection will also be available at its stores.

According to a retail analyst who wished to remain anonymous, "Wills Lifestyle's plan for a makeover was essential in the face of a modern, youth-friendly retailing becoming the buzzword. Moreover, with the advent of several new retail chains in India, established brands like Wills Lifestyle had to go for innovations in order to stay ahead of competition."

The brand makeover will be reflected through new-look stores, launch of premium product lines, and tie-ups with leading architecture and management companies for superior product presentation inside stores.

The changes have resulted in 20 per cent increase in footfalls in its stores and 15-20 per cent rise in productivity.

"Women's wear contributes about 35 per cent to the chain and we see this as a big growth opportunity. We are also focusing on the men's formal wear category as part of our strategy to focus on special consumer segments," informed Atul Chand, vice-president (marketing and retail) of ITC.

The company has also roped in FRCH, an architectural, planning and interior design services firm, to get the desired new-look.

The new concept store design will enable differentiated product presentation through interplay of hangs and stacks. The company is now providing more elbow room to its customers through spacious trial rooms.

The company has also tied up with Friedman Group, the retail management expert, which would train its store managers and staff on engaging customers for a superior shopping experience.

In other tie-ups, Elemental Design, a UK-based visual merchandising communications, event management and design agency, will assist the company with an improved display and presentation inside the stores.

From 50 stores at present, the company plans to have 80 stores by the year-end.