How does a legacy carpet brand weave its store experience?
By N Jayalakshmi | February 06, 2023
People, technology and design are the key ingredients for 102-year-old carpet brand Obeetee, which recently opened its flagship store in Hyderabad. Angelique Dhama, CEO, Obeetee Carpets Retail, shares with Retail4Growth, the brand’s approach to retail.
For a 102-year-old legacy brand focused on exports, having a store means being able to convey the brand narrative to customers in a much more engaging and resonant manner. And this is exactly what carpet brand Obeetee does with its stores.
Obeetee, whose genesis goes back to 1920 in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, made its retail foray in 2019 with its first retail studio in Sultanpur, Delhi. Since then the brand has launched two more stores, one in Mumbai and another in Hyderabad, and is now planning its fourth store in Kolkata.
Angelique Dhama, CEO, Obeetee Carpets Retail, says, speaking about Obeetee’s retail focus, “We wanted local customers also to enjoy the privilege of accessing export quality carpets, and hence opened our first store in Delhi. We then opened one in Mumbai. In the South, we chose Hyderabad for many reasons.” Elaborating further on the flagship store in Hyderabad, located at the upmarket Jubilee Hills area in the city, she adds, “The brief to the design team was to make the store like no other carpet store in and around Hyderabad. We wanted the store to offer a distinct experience to our customers with the complete range of our products while retaining the brand aesthetics. And we were happy to hear the feedback of architects, who said they had never seen such a wide range of offerings in Hyderabad. The store also has a private area for interior design, discussion, etc.”
Speaking about ensuring consistency across all the stores, Angelique says, “There are distinct parts of the store where you would know you have entered an Obeetee store, even without the branding. One is the legacy wall, the other elements are the reception area, the materials used, the colours, the flooring, ceiling space, etc. These might be formatted differently, but the schemes are all the same. The lighting is also consistent; all the stores have similar chandeliers. The stores also use the same perfume. The idea is to convey a single brand narrative across.”
The brand works with Delhi based design agency Design 21 for all its stores and the store execution is centrally managed.
People as a critical factor
Ask Angelique about the key challenges in store roll-outs today and she promptly replies, “The biggest challenge is finding the right people to manage the stores. We are very particular about the people we want. They have to combine communication skills with knowledge of textiles, crafts etc., and also understand design. Once they come on board, they get rigorous training, including factory visits for product training.”
She adds, explaining the challenge of finding people in this category, “Flooring is our product focus and it is not the most attractive area to work in. But the fact is that once you are a flooring person, you are always a flooring person. We have people working with us for almost 40 years. It is a matter of falling in love with the product.”
As Angelique says, academies or institutes that train people for special retail categories like carpets would be welcome. She also informs that moving on, the brand will continue to hire the best people for the job.
The omnichannel mantra
Speaking about the brand’s omnichannel foray, Angelique says, “Omnichannel is working very well for us. We entered the online space about six to eight months ago and it’s a constant learning experience. In the digital space, the consumer is different, and so is the acquisition strategy.” The brand is pretty upbeat about its online business. As Angeliqueshares, online will be about 30% of the business and the brand plans to make continuous investments in CRM and related technologies.
Stores as community spaces
But even as the digital drive continues, the brick-and-mortar retail space as a platform for interactions and community building gains greater relevance. For a niche product like premium carpets, it is all the more so. As Angelique says, “When people come into our stores they expect an experience, they don't want to just come, transact and leave - that they can do online. Sometimes there are four or five members of a family discussing in different rooms, and they all need to discuss, take the advice of a specialist and feel part of the whole process. When we tell them about the weavers of the carpets, about the uniqueness of each product and all that goes into it, then it becomes an enriching experience for them and that is why the physical store matters and also why the right store staff matters.”
Further summing up the brand’s retail plans for the coming financial year, Angelique says, “We are going to continue expanding the retail footprint. We will rest only when we reach a store count of at least 10-12 stores.”
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