Aero Group's outdoor footwear and apparel brand Woodland is looking to mark its presence in tier II and tier III cities in India. With the firm targeting even the overseas market aggressively, Woodland Worldwide managing director Harkirat Singh reveals its growth strategies in an interaction with Shine Jacob. Edited Excerpts:
Do you think the overall financial situation is having an impact on the footwear market? What is the biggest challenge for growth?
The overall slowdown in the economy is not affecting brand players. Our expansions are on track and sales are skyrocketing. So this is an industry which is least affected.
As far as challenges are concerned, the big unorganised grey market is a problem to be addressed. The government should make the rules of import from Bangladesh more stringent to curb these players. Even in India, there are areas in Kanpur and Agra where these fake products are made. Lawmakers must do something to curb these small unorganised fake shoe makers. This is not just a problem with Woodland, but with other brands like Adidas and Nike, too.
When are you expecting Woodland to touch the Rs 1,000-crore mark in terms of turnover and what are your retail expansion plans?
During the current financial year, our turnover will cross Rs 800 crore, posting an almost 15 per cent growth. We are expecting it to touch to Rs 1,000 crore by march 2014.
In terms of retail expansion, there will be a more than 30 per cent growth on our exclusive outlets from 375 at present to 500 by the next financial year. We are aggressively looking at tier II and III cities. It is very easy to get carried away, we are not into a franchisee model and are satisfied with opening of about 60 stores annually. Apart from our own expansion, organised multi-brand retail players like Shoppers Stop and Reliance, where we have a presence, are also expanding. With FDI (foreign direct investment) coming in, we are expecting the retail market to open up further.
There were reports that you are looking for strategic partners abroad. What are your plans in this regard?
Markets like the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong and China hold immense potential for us. We already have tie-ups with distributors and strategic players and they are already selling through multi-brand stores in these countries. Once we feel that our presence is good enough, exclusive Woodland stores will be opened there.
About a 15-20 per cent of our current turnover is coming from exports. We have a presence in 50 countries and have more than 50 stores in horizons like Hong Kong.
What are your investment plans?
In the next three years, Woodland is planning to invest more than Rs 500 crore for expansion. With our market set to grow in a quick pace, the firm would like to double its manufacturing capacity in the next three years. Our current manufacturing capacity in footwear is 4.5 to 5 million pieces through 15 units, while on apparel it is around 2.5 to 3 million through five units. Our overseas manufacturing facility in Bangladesh is still at a nascent stage.
Are you looking to enter other categories as well?
We have aggressively forayed into women's formal wear. However, the sports category is something which Woodland is not too keen on. As part of our increasing focus on younger customers, we have come up with some teenage products too. Our presence in the digital world with 1.5 million fans on Facebook itself shows how popular Woodland is among youngsters. Moreover, our e-commerce platform is also expanding, with some special designer brands on offer for customers.