NEW DELHI, India – As Central Aerocity opened its doors in the World Mark 3 building near the international airport here recently, the Future Group used the 100,000-square-foot store to highlight its new message: The company is once again putting its money into fashion retailing. This time, though, it isn’t in the mass market, but rather a new concept that aims to give brick-and-mortar an edge.
There are more than 500 brands at the store, which Future Group chief executive officer Kishore Biyani described as a “next generation.” Taking it to another level comes in with many ways — the entrance into the main hall is dazzling, with a large column covered with shimmering lights; the entire store is designed more tastefully, with more attention to fittings than at previous Central stores; there are well demarcated spaces between retail brands, and the beauty area has been strengthened and given more prominence.
The new concept, called Central High Definition, is geared toward adapting to the changes in the retail market — to see things with the same sense of detail as high-definition technology, a company spokesperson explained. There are also more than 60 high-definition TVs throughout the store that focus on brand promotion and trends.
Another big change is the introduction of more premium categories, which is likely to be welcomed by global brands looking for more points of sale. The store focuses heavily on fashion with brands including Giorgio Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.
“The brief to the company was simple. It was ‘seduction,’” Biyani said.
It seems an unlikely brief from a man known for his down-to-earth style and a disarmingly direct approach to everything he has done in the last decade, starting from when the Future Group grew rapidly by introducing new concepts and different formats.
“This is an attempt to bring experiences to the customers that they don’t even know they want yet,” Biyani explained. “It is the amalgamation of world class brands with experiential design at the store to provide customers with a global experience while keeping in mind Indian sensitivities.”
The store offers free Wi-Fi and products can also be ordered through mobile platforms, like WhatsApp, for home delivery. Shoppers can also put a 48-hour hold on products, or make appointments with stylists.
“This year, we expect to have a 25 to 30 percent growth overall,” said Biyani. The same-store growth will be 15 to 16 percent. The group has other stores such as Brand Factory, Planet Sports and Hometown and Ezone in the home and electronics segment. Central, which has operated in the department store format since it was first launched in Bangalore in 2004, grew at 10.3 percent last year in terms of same-store sales.
There are now 33 Central department stores in India, with six more expected to open in the fiscal year ending March 31.
“I believe the market for fashion is going to explode in the next few years, with both ethnicwear and Western fashion continuing to grow. In India, modernity and tradition go hand and hand,” Biyani explained, adding that competing against global retailers arriving in India wasn’t difficult with a proper understanding of the market.
Fashion will constitute more than 50 percent of group turnover, he said, taking into account the fact that women’s fashion has changed a lot over the last few years. He pointed out that retailing was now a business where it was “important for brands and other retailers to work together to collaborate and seduce the customer.”
The way forward is to “redefine the fashion and lifestyle retail concept in India,” which was the focus of the new store, he said.
It is no empty boast — the Future Group has had success with some of its other retail concepts, particularly in the mass segment — including store formats like Big Bazaar and private labels such as Jealous 21, which has brought creativity into the denim market.
Some analysts feel that the group lost its foothold in fashion after it sold its flagship Pantaloon chain of department stores to the Aditya Birla group in 2012, but Biyani looks at the process more holistically.
“We have had many learnings from the process. And we have seen that the store chain continues to grow. It shows that the concept was good.”