Sunday, May 19, 2024

‘Investments in interactive store displays, AI-driven customer service & inventory management systems to take precedence’

By N Jayalakshmi | January 03, 2024

Sunil Pathare, Chairman and Managing Director of leading innerwear brand VIP Clothing Ltd, tells why the retail brand bets big on offline retail and how it leverages the store space to get closer to its customers. 

Sunil Pathare

Could you first take us through VIP Clothing’s retail presence in the country? What are your key markets?   

The innerwear segment in India is experiencing an unprecedented surge in growth, driven by the increasing demand in recent times. In response, VIP Clothing is strategically expanding to meet this surge, prioritizing innovation and creativity in our approach. Today, VIP is present in over 25,000 outlets across India. We are looking to expand to 40,000 outlets in the near future. This growth is visible across products and markets. While the men's innerwear segment contributes to 85–90% of our revenue, we are also working towards expanding our women’s offerings with VIP Feelings. The goal is to expand Feelings in the largely untouched West and North Indian markets. Meanwhile, the South Indian market continues to remain a key area of focus as our highest growth region in the country. This is closely followed by the East and West Zones in India.

How do you think offline retail with the front end store elements help in meeting the brand’s business targets?

Despite the rise of online shopping, offline retail remains indispensable. With VIP’s stores spread all over the country, we recognize how offline retail not only contributes to business targets but also builds trust and credibility in the brand. It provides an immersive customer experience that fosters personal connections and acts as a physical touchpoint for brand engagement. The personalized assistance provided by our in-store staff is especially crucial as we are a brand that prioritizes comfort. In addition to creating unique customer experiences, in-person interactions allow us to collect valuable feedback by observing customer behavior. Moreover, the physical store adds to our online presence, creating an integrated, omnichannel shopping experience. Together, they position us for sustained growth and customer loyalty.

When it comes to the front end store solutions or elements, where do you see your focus and investments going up in the near future? 

The Indian lingerie industry evolving into a more open and confident segment has created an opportunity for brands to experiment with store solutions and designs. At VIP Clothing, we are dedicated to staying ahead of the curve by leveraging technological advancements and innovative approaches to create the best omnichannel experiences. Investments in interactive store displays, AI-driven customer service, and inventory management systems are expected to take precedence. This will not only enhance customer engagement but also facilitate data-driven insights for crafting enhanced marketing strategies. We are also focused on training our staff for seamless adoption of changing technologies to ensure a cohesive and efficient integration of different tools. 

How do you find and partner the right suppliers for your store elements like fitouts, lighting or tech solutions? Do you have any pre-defined criteria or parameters in place?

We hold ourselves to the highest standards and expect the same from all our partners. As such, we have stringent criteria when it comes to finding and partnering with suppliers. Suppliers with a proven track record in retail who adhere to industry standards and emphasize quality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness are prioritized. Preference is given to those embracing innovation, customization, and sustainability. We understand the value of long-term partnerships and seek out seamless and lasting collaborations capable of effective communication.

Today as a retailer, what are your top challenges, especially for opening or expanding footprint?

The competition in the retail industry is certainly fierce. Brands are focused on aggressive advertising and marketing as they respond to changing business and economic conditions. Agility has become the need of the hour. One of the biggest challenges lies in adapting swiftly in the face of shifting consumer behaviour and supply chain disruptions. Integrating technology seamlessly and dealing with high real-estate costs pose additional hurdles. As we continue to expand our footprint, we also have to navigate regulatory complexities and focus on talent acquisition. By strategically incorporating technology adoption, fostering talent development, and understanding market dynamics, we remain committed to realizing sustained growth within this competitive landscape.

How’s 2024 looking? Any new retail plans for the year?

In recent times, there has been a growing demand for stylish, sensuous, and high-quality innerwear products. As our consumers continue to evolve, innerwear clothing, once considered a basic necessity, has transformed into designer wear that provides a perfect blend of style and comfort. This surge in demand for fashionable, premium innerwear will continue to set the tone for 2024. The market has witnessed remarkable sales figures in the last few years and showcases great potential for further growth in the coming year.



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