NEW DELHI – The Future Group’s subsidiary Future Style Lab has opened its first two new concept stores here and in Mumbai.
The group is one of India’s largest retailers operating in sectors ranging from department store chain Central to value formats with Big Bazaar. Last year, Future merged with Bharti Retail, giving the biggest retailer in India, Reliance Retail, a run for its position with estimated revenues of more than $9 billion and more than 19 million square feet of retail space.
Future Style Lab was set up to develop brands for both freestanding stores and to retail through Future’s existing network. A design office was opened in London to develop the brands.
“It is a pioneering move for an Indian company to have a design hub in London with a senior and experienced team,” Manjula Tiwari, chief executive officer of Future Style Lab, told WWD. “It is about getting the trends in our collection and seeing how the Indian consumer will respond.”
The first brand from Future Style Lab is called Cover Story and its first two standalone stores have opened in prime retail space at the Infiniti mall in Malad, Mumbai, and the Mall of India, Noida, in the New Delhi Capital region. Both are 1,000 square feet.
There are also more than 10 Cover Story shop-in-shops in Future Group’s 31-unit Central department store chain. The plan is to open three to four freestanding stores this year, and 50 stores over the next four years. The brand has also been launched on e-tailer Myntra for an exclusive six-month period.
Cover Story’s prices range from 590 rupees, or $8.80 at current exchange, to 3,500 rupees, or $50, with 10 percent of the store area dedicated to accessories and shoes, to help customers create a complete look.
Cover Story is expected to be the trailblazer for many more brands, Tiwari said. The brand picks up on global runway trends, and customizes them for the Indian market. Creative director Ainsley Mackney is based in the London office.
“The point is, these are the trends, but will the Indian consumer want to wear it? Is the shape, the color preference, the social context — can she wear it walking on a street, going in a bus in India, and not just if she were walking in Barcelona, New York or Paris? Our girl is 25; she has just joined the work force and has a high disposable income. Also, we’re thinking disposable, but we’re giving her good quality. Indians are not willing to really throw away a dress after one or two wears,” said Tiwari.
The store caters to customers at ease in the digital era, with a selfie format that allows consumers to browse through the collection, click pictures and print, or share the pictures on sites like WhatsApp and Facebook.
Women’s wear in India has been growing at a 25 percent to 30 percent rate year-on-year, and is an estimated $11.5 billion industry. Western styles account for about 25 percent of the total.
“India is just waking up to fashion and the change has been to disposable fashion, from occasion-led shopping — as in for festivals such as Diwali and for weddings. Young people today have a different spending pattern and lifestyle. It is about disposable, trendy fashion that suits the wallet. A lot of customers are moving from ethnic clothes to Western wear,” Tiwari observed.
Fast fashion has been changing the Indian outlook on the market. Spanish brand Zara entered the Indian market five years ago, and last year H&M launched for the first time in India. Forever 21, which entered India under a franchise with DLF brands, has changed hands earlier this year, and is now relaunching with the Aditya Birla Group. The group also bought into the fashion segment last year, buying the Pantaloon store chain from the Future group. Cover Story will be refreshing 10 percent of its collection every week by adding new pieces and phasing out 10 percent as well.