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ITC to inject Rs.150 cr into 100 Wills Sport stores
The Economic Times - 23 Jun 2001

Rahul Kumar

Chandigarh 22 June

Having carved a niche for itself by launching the first branded lifestyle apparel, Wills Sport, in Delhi in July 2000, the Lifestyle Retailing Business Division (LRBD) of ITC Limited has now big plans up its sleeve. The company which since June 15 last is on a store opening spree countrywide plans to inject Rs.150 crore within the next 2-3 years and achieve a turnover of between Rs.250 crore and Rs.300 crore by the end of the third year of operations from sale of its branded premium range of apparels both for men and women, points out ITC, LRBD chief executive, Mr. Sanjiv Keshava.

ITC has so far opened four exclusive premium stores called Wills Lifestyle, of which two are in Chennai and one each in New Delhi and Chandigarh. The Delhi store was opened in July last year. While the premises is owned by a local party, the company’s investment is in terms of creating the right ambience at the outlet and the wide range of products on display.

"We are now going nationwide and plan to open a total of 100 stores by the end of third year of operations," says Keshava. While other brands under the range of lifestyle products that are in the pipeline will also be marketed under the Wills Lifestyle brand of stores the company by August 2001 is gearing its machinery to open 25 stores positioned in 23 cities. Among the stores in the pipeline to be opened this month include Ambala, Trichy, Coimbatore, Connaught Place in New Delhi on June 26 and Pune on June 29. July would see stores opening in Aurangabad, Hyderabad, Vishakapatnam, Indore, Pondicherry and Bareilly while in August stores would be opened in Dehra Dun, Thiruvanthapuram and Kozhikode. Earlier, the company had requisitioned the services of a US San Francisco based consultancy firm American Design Intelligence Group (ADIG) to advised it on store designing and merchandising as well as create a lifestyle product that could pioneer the group’s foray into the lifestyle segment. All stores would necessarily have the same decor and ambience and manned by neatly attired personnel in navy blue T-shirts and khaki trousers.

"Our intention is to give the Indian customer a truly international retailing experience," says Mr. Keshava. Each store would boast of 50 different styles of relaxed wear apparels – shirts, T-shirts and trousers for men and another 25 styles of apparel for the women for summer wear. These apparels would be available in basically three catagories – work, leisure and party wear. However, during winter, sweaters, cardigans and jackets will dot the shelves. "We are as yet not into suits," says Keshava. While the design and specifications as well as the fabric is provided by the company, stitching is being done at production units of key exporters based in Bangalore, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Ludhiana.

"We are in the premium segment and within this segment we are very competitively priced," feels Keshava. "Quality of the Wills Sports brand is our USP and to ensure that the brand maintains the highest levels of quality and innovation a state-of-the-art design, production and technology centre is being set up in Gurgaon shortly," he said. This facility will help in research on designs, trends and fabrics and drastically increase speed to market. The centre, the company feels may be considered a path-breaking project as even internationally, very few brands have a similar facility. He told ET here today that the company was sourcing 5 per cent of its fabrics from China and Korea the rest were being sourced as per own design from various manufacturers. He revealed that the company was doing research in under-garments and other categories of apparels as well which may be introduced at an appropriate time. While wallets and leather belts have been introduced he did not rule out the possibility of getting into the shoes business should the occasion demand. He said this season the focus on Wills Sport Spring-Summer 2001 collection is strongly on colours with vibrant shades as well as soft pastels, the fashionable washed look and the classic essentials of white, off-white, navy and black. Bermudas and Capris the shortest shorts and sleeveless tank tops form part of this collection that will be visible in all Wills Lifestyle stores.