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The Collective’s Decade Long Journey As A Luxury Retailer In India

Mr. Amit Pande, Brand Head, The Collective, on the brand’s unique journey as a luxury retailer, challenges faced and strategies for future expansion

Luxury multi-brand retail store, The Collective recently commemorated ten years of bringing in the world’s best luxury fashion to Indian consumers. With an exciting assortment of global fashion brands for men and women, from Armani Collezioni, Dsquared2, Alexander McQueen to Fred Perry, Hackett London, Eton, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss Green, Ted Baker, Philipp Plein and many more, the brand is continuously looking for newer opportunities to venture into. 

In a conversation with Mr. Amit Pande, Brand Head, The Collective & International Brands at Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail Ltd, he shares his insights on the brand’s unique journey as a luxury retailer, challenges faced, strategies for future expansion and much more.  


How has your decade-long journey as a luxury retailer in India been?

We are the only one’s that do luxury apparel in the country. So, it is a different sort of a game as compared to other mono brands that are accessory centric. We’ve been there for 10 years now and we pretty much started it. Today, we are the largest real estate in luxury of any format with 10 stores across the country. It is not a large store from an international perspective, but it is from an Indian perspective. We have completely transformed our reach, the way we do production. From a business perspective, it has been a good journey. It has been a difficult business to make money in; we don’t have those concerns now. We are a part of a much larger company.

Last year, we covered Hyderabad as well. Our e-commerce platform, is giving us about 7-8% of our total revenue. So, we are very traditional in our matter of speaking, we focus on creating value for our clients. Should you were to walk into our store, we would first try why and what is motivating you. You may not feel it, just in a conversation, but we will pick it up from you. This is what we call professional recommendation, and this is what keeps people coming back.


 What are some of the challenges you faced along the way? 

It is a very dynamic environment. Right from the time we opened our store in Bangalore, way back in 2008. Our ticket prices were a shocker. Imagine selling Armani, Versace, Hugo Boss back in 2008 in our country. It was a fantastic store. However, it is difficult in our country to import western culture and bring it here. Body types are different, our sensibilities are different. We dress up in a very different way. So, it has been a hard ride to find a right customer—to create that relationship and to make sense in his life. With our digital backbone, we today reach about 3-3 and a half million people every month, through the collective digital system. And, that has driven tremendous amount of acquisitions.


So, what are men buying these days?     

Traditionally, we have done a lot of business in shirts and denim. First of all, T-shirts have started to do well. Earlier, our customers wouldn’t buy T-shirts maybe because it was never value for money. But, nowadays T-shirts are on-the-go. We have a decent business in atheleisure. We are also moving to contemporary wear, for example: Hugo Boss and Philipp Plein were a great success. Sweatshirts too are a big thing now.


Are you planning to introduce new brands for the coming year?

It is a constant process. Right now, the buying season is on, so we are considering brands. It is a little too premature to talk about what is coming. But, I can talk to you about what thrived this season; we introduced Mulberry, a classic brand of handbags. Philipp Plein was a success from the get-go. We are doing a lot of activities on Women’s apparel as well. We introduced a brand called Phase Eight which brings in a lot of colour and is most suitable from Indian women body-type perspective. We introduced Pinko, an Italian handbag’s brand of high quality and Aeronautica Militare. I am told, some Punjabi rap-stars are big on that brand. 


What are some of the trends specific to luxury retail sector?                

The market is opening up. People are seeing the fact  that there is more value on the products that they get here. In fact, the older customers that started with us 7-8 years back, their tastes have matured so much, it has become more sophisticated. It has become more fashionable. That shift is coming through. I think casualization is very big. We were never really large on formals, in any case. But, the trends are sleeker, lighter and comfortable, not exactly street.


Going forward any strategies that you have in mind?

Business is large for luxury. We are looking to open one store a year which is an ambitious plan. The consumption is much higher in cities like Bombay,Delhi and Bangalore. The opportunity from suburbs is coming up. So, that is what we are thinking about.