02 May, 2009

Van Heusen - From Power Dressing to Powerful communication

Madura Garments, the blue-eyed Retail business of the Aditya Birla Nuvo – among the most respected companies and a long-time Retailer in India, recently launched a powerful communication for its most revered Brand – Van Heusen, popularly known as VH. Calling it the “Master of Ceremonies” (probably pun unintended), the new line of Suits and other dress materials has woken up the upper segments of the apparel maket even during this so called “slowdown”. Typically focussed on the Middle and Senior Management of the working class, Van Heusen has many firsts to its credit. Those who are in the know would remember the olden days of classy exclusive Van Heusen boutiques in large and small cities all over India. Although the imported brand rights were licensed into India by the Birlas many years ago, most consumers thought it to be a really international piece, not just for its name but for its sustained styling and creations, needless to mention, an International ambience at its stores and well trained and groomed staff always around to assist customers.

Many would know that the Brand also associated with the main character of a recent Hindi blockbuster, Ghajini, and thereby bringing back the culture of waist-coats to Board Rooms. The weather conditions, however, in most Indian cities was a deterrent for this to become usable and popular. A few years back, another flagship brand of the company, Louis Phillippe associated itself with the powerful character played by the lead role in the Hindi movie DON. And many other Brands used and are continuing to use the Hindi filmdom, popularly known as Bollywood as well as other local language films to launch and showcase their collections.

Coming back to the MC Collection from VH, there is a great effort being taken by the Retailer this time. Similar to how international brands prefer taking appointments from their key clientele and make the brand feel superior, VH has taken a similar route this time around – to entice focussed walk-ins into the retail store. One needs to just call up a phone number and book an appointment for an exclusive “dekko” of the collections avaialble at the store. As is anyone’s guess, the conversion is almost certain, given the Brand’s equity in the market and the conviction of shoppers to posess this Brand. And most importantly, the pricing is not too high – ranges from INR 9,000 - 15,000 (USD 180 – 300). Freebies such as a matching Tie and a breast-pocket handkerchief, as always are packaged smartly along with the main offerring. This is being tested for two months in a row – May and June 2009 and in all probability, the Brand may retain such an exclusivity in future at certain stores in large cities.

Now, my point to make here is the attention given to the customer in today’s scenario. Losing regular shoppers to competition is usual, but losing shoppers due to an economic slowdown doesn’t happen frequently, not even in a few years’ cycle. This is the time Retailers must take care of the customers more than normal – pamper them as much as possible with innovative, yet simple ways to get them into the stores. As you would agree, atleast in most parts of India, many are holding back their spending – a typical phenomenon of sitting on the fence. Show them the value, and communicate with them in such a way, that they get down from the fence and walk into the stores, and that’s really half work done. And then, the Merchandising has to lead from there. Very few have realised this in today’s market condition. And they are sure to reap benefits. Like in Management, there are three types of Retailers – those who achieve success, those who watch, and then those who wonder! Clearly, our example here has always been the first – and it continues to strive excellence.

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