Priyadarshi bhattacharya | dms, iit delhi
Raymond women’s apparel
One of India’s biggest apparel companies, Raymond has been successful in almost every segment that it has ventured into. With iconic brands like Raymond, Color Plus, Park Avenue and Parx, the company commands respect in the industry. However, its women’s wear brands, launched in 2007 have been doing very badly. Even in a metro like New Delhi, there are just two outlets where the company’s women wear line is sold. In one of them at Select City walk, the shop owner reveals that even though the women’s wear line occupies 15 % of shelf space, it contributes to just around 5 % of sales. This article examines the reasons for the poor performance of Raymond’s offerings for women and recommends a possible solution.
Park Avenue: Park Avenue marked Raymond’s entry into the men’s Ready to Wear segment in 1986.A premium contemporary formal wear brand, Park Avenue targets men in the age group of 30-40 years.
ColorPlus: ColorPlus was launched in 1993 by ColorPlus Fashions, then a unit of Coimbatore-based Ambattur Clothing Limited and was acquired by Raymond in 2002.
From the 2 pyramids shown above it can clearly be seen that there has been a significant increase in the female work force size in India in the last decade.
The Raymond group initially made an entry into women’s apparel through the Be: brand line of designer clothing launched in 2001. However, the brand failed to capture a sizeable market share and was withdrawn in 2007. In September 2007, Raymond made another effort to enter this category at two different points. Instead of launching a separate brand for women, the company decided to extend both the existing Park Avenue and Color Plus brands into women’s clothing. Thus, Park Avenue Woman and ColorPlus Woman were launched. The marketing strategies of the two sub-brands are analysed below.
Product – 3 distinct lines –
· Modern Classic Range – For business formal wear.
· Urban Chic – For business leisure wear.
· Opium Delight – For business evening wear.
Product – 5 different product lines –
1. Day wear range
2. Sporty casual wear range
3. Outdoor range
4. Business casuals range
5. Evening wear range
Madura Garments was the first to extend the Allen Solly brand to the women’s line in 2002. The company subsequently did the same with the Van Heusen range. Other players followed suit, including Blackberrys, ITC’s Miss Player and Raymond’s Park Avenue and ColorPlus brands. However, using its first mover advantage, Madura Garments saw sales of the Allen Solly women’s wear sub-brand go up to 15 % of the total Allen Solly sales by 2004. Many other players are also positioning themselves to take advantage of this growing market. Potential entrants include Arvind Mills, which plans to launch women’s clothing under the licensed Arrow and US Polo brands, and foreign entrants like the innovative Spanish designer fashion brand Zara from Inditex.
The biggest hurdle to the success of the company’s women’s wear lines has been the image of the Raymond brands. Raymond and Park Avenue have always been positioned to maximize their exclusivity for men of class (with taglines like ‘The Complete Man’). Once that kind of image is created for a premium brand (for which a more comprehensive identity is needed), it is very difficult to change it in the short-to-medium term. Apparel is one of the key areas where men and women have traditionally had different needs. Also, brands like Allen Solly have been in the women’s market for eight years now, in which time, the perception of them as men’s brands has been successfully changed to a great degree. None of the other brands had ‘maleness’ as such a major component of their core identity as the ones from the Raymond group. The company erred by not highlighting the extension into women’s market sufficiently through the right media. By sticking to print advertisements, where a high degree of communication is sometimes not possible, women’s awareness about these sub brands remains low.
An additional mistake was to enter two different parts of the woman’s apparel sector at the same time. This meant that the company could not focus on building the core non-male identity necessary to make either extension successful. Some of the choices about sales outlets location may also have hurt the sub brands. For instance, in New Delhi, while Select Citywalk is a prime location, the shop is located on the same floor as the Allen Solly and Van Heusen outlets. Any female consumers looking for western wear would head to one of these shops, rather than to one with a male-centric image.
The Way Ahead
Given the lack of success of the women’s wear extensions over the past few years, company would be better off creating a completely separate brand for women’s wear. This would allow it to define a core identity and values that women can relate to. Trying to change the present subbrand(s) to give them such a makeover would risk diluting the parent brand. In this regard, the example of Zapp – the kidswear brand from Raymond is noteworthy. A possible marketing strategy for the new brand is outlined below.
Segmentation: Segment the women’s market by occupation (working woman vs. homemaker) and age (25-35 years and above 35 years). The opportunity in the working women segment is enormous.
Targeting: Focusing on the older segment (above 35 years) would be ideal as this segment would be better suited for building a premium brand with a deep-seated identity. This brand can be made an aspirational one and extended downwards in terms of age in the future.
Only one brand should be created so that the company can focus its resources in this segment. The brand can be targeted at the modern corporate woman in at a middle management or higher level initially. Once established, the brand can be extended to target young women starting their careers. Depending on the brand’s success, a new/related one can be introduced later on as a smart casuals brand for women.
Positioning: In the first phase (targeting of older professionals), the brand can be positioned as one which appreciates the unique nature of women who rise to high level positions while juggling family responsibilities. The brand shares the journey with them and when they get there, the brand is the woman’s way of making a distinctive feminine statement. ‘Women have arrived – at the very top’ is the message the brand would send out. Later on, a line under the brand can be extended to young women just stepping into their first jobs as a reassuring, comforting friend who is with them from the very beginning as they start their careers.
Product: The product range can be similar to that of the present Park Avenue Woman brand. Some of the features from the Raymond apparel brand can also be incorporated for class, with changes to emphasise the feminine nature of the clothing.
Price: Here, the price range can either be similar to the Park Avenue Woman range or, given that the target segment consists of successful executives, a somewhat higher price can be charged.
Place: Given the profile of the target segment, exclusive brand stores can be opened in cities with a large number of big companies (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad). It also can be sold through premium multi-brand retail stores.
Promotion: As a new brand, an aggressive campaign would be required in the initial phases. This would mainly focus on business channels and upmarket publications. The brand name needs to have a strong feminine component. Some of the suggestions for the taglines would be - ‘An idea whose time has come.’ and ‘I know no ceilings.’ In addition to the media campaigns, to position itself as the working woman’s brand, involvement with supporting women-specific initiatives launched by companies (like Infosys’ Women’s Inclusivity Network) can further strengthen the brand. For example, this could take the form of sponsoring a conference to share best practices for supporting women at work. Social media is another medium which can be used for this purpose, for instance, hosting Facebook groups for women to share their experiences and success stories.
All in all, the women’s western wear market in India is an extremely promising opportunity. No leading apparel company can afford to be left behind in this area. Raymond’s foray into this market has not given good returns so far, due mainly to the lack of a distinctive female brand identity, distributed focus and intensity of competition. While the competition will only get tougher over time, the company can reap major benefits with a course correction – launching a new exclusive women’s brand supported by a strong marketing campaign to emphasise its feminine identity and focussing on one segment at a time. Given the company’s proud record of leadership in many segments of the apparel sector, a day may soon be at hand when it leaves competitors behind in this burgeoning sector as well.