Sunday, February 05, 2023

‘There has to be a strong, value-driven reason for a customer to walk into your store’

By N Jayalakshmi | November 30, 2022

Suman Saha, CEO, Arrow - Arvind Brands Ltd., in an exclusive interaction with Retail4Growth, talks about the brand’s aggressive retail expansion plans, the key focus areas moving forward and why agility is the most important factor today in the context of creating a compelling brand space and experience. Read on…

Inside arrow retail store

Suman Saha  CEO, Arrow - Arvind Brands Ltd Arrow has been in an aggressive retail expansion mode. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes, we have a number of expansion plans, but the focus is primarily on strengthening our exclusive brand outlet network. We feel, given the stature of the brand, we are slightly under-distributed in that aspect. So in about two years, we plan to double our exclusive footprint.

Essentially, the expansion has to be profitable in order to make sense. We have worked very hard to understand the assortment mix, the geographic mix, the store size, the commercials etc., to ensure profitable expansion. So, while the opportunity was always there, we feel more bullish today compared to 15 months ago when we were coming out of Covid.

Moving forward, what do you think will be the key areas of investments in retail, given that the role of brick-and-mortar retail has evolved post-Covid?

Although the industry has seen many disruptions before, what is unprecedented about the Covid disruption is that it has fundamentally altered purchase pathways, in a manner that has never been seen before. So there are a lot more options today for a customer to discover and experience a brand. Therefore, the big challenge for all of us now is how to integrate the ‘sell’ side, the supply side and the ‘create’ side.  A lot of the interventions are more prominently visible on the selling side because that’s the consumer-facing side. But the most critical question is how do we use the data and insights being generated there to create better forecasting models - basically link it to the create and supply side to respond to consumer inputs much faster. Generation of insights is one part, but acting on those insights and taking timely action is the other, more critical part. And this is going to be the main area of investment, I feel. An ideal business is one where the consumer view of the brand gets reflected in the assortment in real-time and all of us are essentially trying to solve this piece.

It is also about mindset change in real-time to match the real-time changes happening on the consumer side. And this is the time to challenge every assumption that was considered gospel truth in this business and ask the right questions.

Inside Arrow retail store- varieties of Blazers display

These changes also aim at raising the experiential quotient of the brick-and-mortar brand space, right?

Yes. Shopping has always been cathartic, but today is more so.  While e-comm has taken the convenience part of shopping and owned it, the brick-and-mortar store space now has to stand on its own and connect emotionally. This also means that brands will have to play a larger role and stand for something. There has to be a strong, value-driven reason for a customer to walk into your store. It has to emotionally appeal and unlock. The store has to move from a transactional space to a value-based one.

The look and feel of Arrow stores have also been changing recently, hasn’t it?  

Yes, we do have a new retail identity and by the end of this year, about 65- 70% of our network will don the new identity. The new identity is about acknowledging the New York heritage of the brand while weaving in premium elegance and interesting self-expression. The basic idea is to drive ‘top of the world’ moments for the consumer through a combination of the merchandise presentation, brand identity and communication in the store and the kind of services that are offered to the consumer. And, of course, there is greater use of technology. Like everyone else, we are also ramping up our omnichannel play - basically using technology-led solutions to bring in more efficiency and create more delight. Also, in the context of VM, the idea is to solve a need for the consumer - recommend and lead. That is where the role of VM should evolve towards.

Much of the success of the store space and VM also depends on the right partners for retail solutions and store design, doesn’t it? Any specific expectations or challenges on that front?

We can’t be talking about rapid expansion without having confidence in our ecosystem, so there are no major challenges as such on that front. But I’d say that given the times and the brand objectives, they also need to get very innovative, and very quickly too. Today the keyword is agility - agility in mindset, agility in product and agility in the experience offered. If something is not working, then one should have the agility - financially and otherwise - to work around it and change. We have to get to a position where we can lead the consumer. So, the role of the vendor partner is important, they have to lead our innovation. Also local manufacturing capacity is important and so is speed, as time is of the essence today. We can’t be taking the traditional amount of time to create a store today. But these are challenges that all of us own together. We have to push our partners and they have to push us back.

Any new plans in the pipeline moving forward?

The brand has to grow in double digits, that’s the main goal. As we scale, the focus will also be on transforming the brand for the post Covid consumer and re-establishing it as a contemporary brand without taking away its heritage value. Moving forward, brands will have to take charge of the consumer experience. That is where the macro indicators are heading. So creating more controlled brand spaces will be of prime importance.



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