NEW DELHI — In a major move in the Indian retail market, the local franchise of British department store Debenhams is changing hands again.

Speaking about the acquisition of the business operations from previous franchisee Planet Retail, J. Suresh, managing director and chief executive officer of new franchisee Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd., told WWD that the new investment would give the company “added growth and strength in the Indian market.”

Arvind Lifestyle Brands already has more than 730 stores in India with 13 international brands and 12 of its own, and had turnover of 16 billion rupees, or $302.6 million, in the year ended March 31. The group aims to be a 50 billion rupees, or $945.9 million, company in the next five years. Arvind Lifestyle Brands is part of the 49.25 billion rupee, or $931.4 million, conglomerate Arvind Ltd., which is one of the largest integrated textile and branded apparel players in India.

Along with Debenhams, Arvind has also taken over Next and Nautica retail chains in India, all from Planet Retail Holdings Pvt. Ltd.

“Debenhams brings us into the department store category,” J. Suresh said. “We want to position this as a bridge to luxury.”

Retail analysts say Debenhams has had a rather  rocky run in India. Under different management now for the third time, the initial expansion plans for the department store chain did not happen. Last year’s initiative to include more labels from top Indian designers is expected to be shelved.

Five years after entering the Indian market, there are three Debenhams stores in India, in New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.

The one in New Delhi is slated to be closed this month as the lease has run out, according to sources.
Suresh said, “Debenhams was ahead of its time five years ago. It does not have mass appeal, but it has a very strong and clear positioning. Five years back, India was not ready. We are planning 10 locations over the next three years. As the market evolves, we will also expand.”

He said the store size would remain about 20,000 to 25,000 square feet, but Arvind is exploring smaller specialty stores for women and kids.

Suresh said Nautica would add strength to the company’s leading position in the sportswear-casualwear segment, joining brands such as Arrow Sport, U.S. Polo Association and Izod in its portfolio. “By adding Nautica, we become an even more dominant player in this segment,” he said.

The Next chain will boost Arvind’s apparel specialty segment and add more women’s and children’s wear to the group’s strength in men’s wear.