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Paris Hilton ‘Hot’ in Mumbai

Two of her stores were launched in Mumbai Sept. 26.

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MUMBAI — Who knew Paris was big in Mumbai?

That’s Paris Hilton, and the American heiress-tabloid fodder and now designer drew crowds during a visit her to launch her accessories collection in India.

Two Paris Hilton stores were launched in Mumbai Sept. 26 as Hilton played the visiting heiress to perfection: she smiled, posed and spoke with the media about how she “loved India” and found it “inspiring.”

“India is one of the largest markets for accessories in Asia and is fast becoming a resource for revenue in the luxury market globally,” Hilton said, sounding like a pro. “India has given an overwhelming response to my collection and I am confident that my range will soon become a craze in the country.”

One of the reasons for accessories growing fast in India is the age demographic. “Given the size of the youth audience at Shoppers Stop, we are sure this new brand will be well received,” said Vinay Bhatia, customer care associate and senior vice president of marketing, customer care and loyalty at the retailer. The department store chain already has lines such as Elliza Donatein and Hidesign.

“We plan to invest more than $4 million over the next two years in opening Paris Hilton stores, and estimate to have 50 stand-alone stores by then, along with other points of sale,” said Prateek Maheshwari, director of Brand Concepts, the licensee for Paris Hilton in India. “There is a complete gap in this segment with no other significant brand available.”

Maheshwari, who lived and studied in the U.S. for some years, studied the market and came up with a business proposition for accessories, first launching designer Rocky S accessories in India. “I thought we would be lucky to sell 500 pieces in the first year,” he said. “but we sold more than 17,000. It gave me the sense that there was strength in the idea, and we find that our faith in the Paris Hilton brand is absolutely upheld by the reaction to her visit in India.”

Brand Concepts is also the distributor for Tommy Hilfiger’s travel accessories in India.

Michael Faurholdt Friis, president and chief executive officer of Retouch Brands Ltd., based in Spain and who licenses Paris Hilton bags in different countries, said the Middle East and Asia have been strong areas of growth for the accessory line, which has plans to be launched in a bigger way in the U.S. in 2012. He added that the next collection will also be more premium and will be in leather. Since India has a strength in leather, he said that the possibility of manufacturing in India has not been ruled out.

Despite high customs duties and real estate costs that often means consumers pay more for their purchases than when traveling abroad, he is optimistic the Hilton line will do well in India.

“Nine out of 10 brands in India are not making money, and there is a reason for that,” admitted Faurholdt Friis. “You don’t just look at the market of a billion people and say that is the number who are going to buy. You have to look very carefully at the statistics. We’ve done our homework in India over two years and are very confident about the choices we have made.”

Branded goods account for 12 to 15 percent of the woman’s fashion accessories market, which is estimated to be worth $1.2 to $1.3 billion a year by consultancy firm Technopak. The accessory market is growing by about 35 percent a year.

Wearing a red sari dress for the press event and later dressed in an outfit by Indian designer Rocky S, who also styled her during the visit to India, Hilton partied in Mumbai with celebrities and Bollywood actresses before launching her stores and donning her business hat.

“I mean to be back in India soon, the business is going to grow here,” she said.

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