Posts filed under ‘Retail’

The Curious case of Superdry- Britain’s youngest fashion super brand

superdry pic 1

What does it take to be a super brand in the world of high street fashion? If selling in over a hundred countries, clocking an annual turnover of approximately £400 million with pre-tax profits of over £ 50 million and being worn by A-list celebrities like David Beckham, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Zac Efron and even Pippa Middleton is all it takes, then it is imperative we call Superdry, the British fashion label founded in 2004 a super brand. In today’s post, we profile Superdry, the British brand described famously as “vintage Americana meets Japanese graphics meets British fits” and track its rise to being one of the world’s youngest and trendiest fashion super brands.

Origin: The story behind the origin of Superdry is a very fascinating one as it explains to a large extent the design philosophy behind their brightly colored clothes and accessories. Many people who look at Superdry’s range automatically assume that the brand is of Japanese origin. The Japanese script visible on almost all their designs and even on the logo may be the reason for this confusion, but the brand’s tagline, “British Design. Spirit of Japan.” is the shining light here as it clearly points out that the brand is embellished with only the “spirit” of Japan. In fact, most of the Japanese characters and words used are used inaccurately and seem to be translated with the help of a dictionary rather than by someone who actually speaks Japanese.

The real story behind the label is that it was conceived in 2003 by designer James Holder (founder of skatewear brand Bench) and Julian Dunkerton (founder of university fashion brand CULT clothing) on an inspirational trip to Japan, where they merged Julian’s fascination for vintage Americana with James’ love for Japanese style graphics and tailored fits. The first design they came up with was the vintage OSAKA 6 T-shirt which is still in production 10 years later and has been their most iconic product till date. They then founded Superdry as a label with Theo Karpathios in 2004 (who headed the international and wholesale division until 2012 when he decided to quit).

superdry pic 2

The Rise:  Superdry started out humbly as a brand retailing mostly through multi brand outlets and through CULT stores in university towns everywhere. The brand was slowly gaining popularity amongst students and urban hipsters until the moment came that changed Superdry’s fortune- David Beckham wore it in his annual calendar. David, who was at the pinnacle of his footballing career then, was one of the most influential fashion celebrities at the time and he wore the fledgling label in three different pictures from the same calendar.

superdry pic 3

This endorsement was soon followed up by celebrity sightings everywhere. In Malcolm Gladwell’s words, the tipping point was reached and Superdry started trending. University students everywhere were wearing Superdry and talking about it on campuses. Superdry took themselves way more seriously as well, creating stores which won several design awards for recreating the grungy, greasy, earthen chic mood that so well represents the brand.

superdry pic 4

Superdry’s marketing also pushed the brand into college towns by offering special discounts to college students and hosting exclusive student nights with live DJ’s and goodie packs for student shoppers. Their marketing concentrated on tie-ups and support for young and upcoming music artists and a very interesting design collaboration with Morgan, the British vintage car company to produce a limited range of “Superdry Morgans”- A classic Morgan three wheeler with Japanese style graphics and design in the Superdry way. These innovative marketing methods coupled with an effective social media and PR campaign led to an unmistakable buzz surrounding the brand and demand grew exponentially.

superdry pic 5

As demand grew, Superdry expanded quickly, both within the UK and internationally until bravely, they decided to file an IPO in 2010 after only 5 years in existence with 55 stores in the UK and 53 more internationally.

To their own surprise, the IPO was well received and their stock was trading at £ 18 per share within a year of being offered for 500 pence per share. This accelerated Superdry’s growth story and by 2012, Superdry was available in more than 400 exclusive stores worldwide. In fact, store of Julian Dunkerton’s CULT brand have also become Superdry stores.

 The Customer: Superdry’s evolution into a global fashion super brand within 10 years of launch points to the arrival of a new kind of customer: One willing to experiment with abstract concepts and brave ideas and also willing to pay a premium for it. These are customers who have been described by experts as the “New Luxury Millenials” and they are instrumental in Superdry’s growth story, as also other new age brands like ASOS and Zara.

superdry pic 6

NLMs are described by retail consultants Sheridan & Co. as people born between 1980 and 1999 who spend a large portion of their disposable income buying brands and luxury products. These individuals have been shielded from the global recession to a large extent by the wealth of their parents and are expected to drive growth in the luxury segment at least until the next major financial crisis. Superdry has tapped these trend sensitive customers from the outset and keeps them coming back for limited editions it releases regularly in collaboration with designers like Timothy Everest and luxury shoemaker “Joseph Cheaney & Sons.”

These NLMs are the customers driving market trends today and the brands of the future must take a cue from Superdry’s experience in tapping this segment.

  • Rahul Sharma

February 18, 2014 at 8:55 am 1 comment

Updates – Organics, Direct Selling

Organics

In May, we ran a post on the market for organic goods and how this market has been seeing a lot of activity in the past few years. One of the key challenges faced by the industry is the lack of adequate and standardized certification methods and policies. A recent initiative in the organics textiles industry is all set to help this sub-segment grow. To keep up with the increased demand for organic textiles, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of India (APEDA) has launched certification standards by recently including the National Organic Textile Standards (NOTS) under the National Programme for Organic Productions (NPOP). This initiative would help boost demand for organic textiles products as well as benefit local producers and the environment. Owing to this, organic textiles exports are expected to increase by 50%, from Rs.1,027 crores in 2011-12 to Rs.1,500 crores in 2012-13. (Click here and here to read news reports)

Direct Selling

In May, we also ran a post on the direct selling business model followed by companies like Tupperware, Avon, Amway, Oriflame, etc. and how this has now become a force to be reckoned with in India especially for traditional FMCG and OTC companies. A recent article in the Economic Times caught my attention regarding the same. Below is an excerpt, click here to read complete article:

While traditional FMCG companies are facing slower growth due to economic slowdown and weak monsoon, direct-selling companies seem to have bucked the trend riding on stable demand, direct engagement with consumers, flexibility in market penetration and lower costs.

Direct selling firms—which sell their products to consumers without routing them through retail stores—are estimated to have posted 21%-23% growth in India in 2011-12, according to IDSA and industry body PHD Chamber. In contrast, traditional FMCG companies, which sell through retail channels, grew 15% in 2011, and 17% so far this year.

Clearly it is the traditional FMCG and OTC companies that need to take notice and be prepared.

  • Roshni Jhaveri

August 13, 2012 at 8:21 am Leave a comment

Shopping Experience – The Reasons Why

As we’ve discussed in the last few posts, the shopping experience for premium brands in various categories is often less than satisfactory. This post takes a quick look at some of the reasons why this is so. While we started out thinking that low investment in training might be one of the reasons, conversations with a few industry folk told us otherwise.

Part of the reason is a huge shortage of manpower and widespread attrition. People often switch jobs in less than a year – some more than once a year (!); many brands are constantly losing their best, well-trained sales staff, and constantly investing in training to bring others up-to-speed.

To make matters worse, the job is not seen as aspirational by many of the staff, it is merely a stepping-stone, a temporary stint till something better comes along. Somehow, something about having to serve other people makes the job less attractive, more so in the Indian context.

Of course, there are a few other factors at play too, we’ve mentioned these in earlier posts on the topic. In trying to live up to international standards of service and maintain their image, some brands lean too much towards being non-intrusive and end up alienating the Indian consumer who expects more service. There are also a few instances (of a very successful brand) where the sales staff was overconfident and felt that the pull of a powerful brand was enough and they did not need to sell it at all.

Overall though, shortage of appropriate manpower – in terms of attitude, aptitude and skill – seems to be the overarching reason for the mismatch between the brand promise and the shopping experience.

By,

The Escape Velocity Team

September 6, 2011 at 5:08 am 3 comments

The Shopping Experience: Jewelry

The format we will follow in this post is the same as in the previous posts in this series:

Impressive: Kiah, Tanishq

Kiah:

  • Sophisticated and well-groomed sales and support staff; salesmen in blue shirts and the sales ladies in dark blue saris – look far more professional than those in traditional jewelry outlets
  • The sales staff was very cordial. We asked to see diamond earrings, after they sat us down in the right section, they asked for basic information such as our names and then addressed us by name throughout the conversation; also asked us whether we’d like a glass of water, tea or coffee, not just before we selected a piece but even before they began showing us jewelry (as you read through this post, you’ll see that this is quite unusual!)
  • Our saleslady also asked very politely about our knowledge of diamond quality, when we professed ignorance, she explained grades and colors to us and then told us about the quality of diamonds used in their jewelry pieces; she explained the facts to us in enough detail to keep our attention but did not get too technical.
  • They were also quick in catching on to what type of designs we liked and after showing us a few trays of jewelry, they themselves started sorting the jewelry to our tastes.
  • One of us visited the store with our aunt to look at higher-value diamond sets. After putting aside a couple of sets and inquiring about their prices and details, even when we were about to leave (without a purchase), they were really friendly and took down our name and phone number to stay in touch incase more designs and jewelry of our interest came in. And, not only did they call back when new pieces came in, but when our aunt revisited the store, they remembered her as well as the sets she’d liked earlier, and while showing the new pieces, they also brought out the earlier ones, for her to compare.

Tanishq:

  • Very welcoming staff
  • All pieces of jewelry clearly state the quality and color of diamonds on the little tags attached to them (haven’t seen this in any other jewelry store) and the sales persons did not try to make up things like “diamonds are super-deluxe quality” neither did they pretended to be making frantic calculations on their calculators when asked for a price to offer the “deal for the day” – this immediately won our confidence.
  • That said, a recent experience at Tanishq was remarkable: I bought a piece of jewelry from there for a gift, but my parents didn’t completely approve of my choice. So I went back to the Tanishq store the next day, armed with not only the jewelry, bill and certificate, but also with a million reasons and arguments for why I wanted to exchange the piece I’d just bought the previous day. As soon as I walked into the store, I was greeted with a warm welcome and I asked to speak with the saleslady who’d helped me the previous day. She promptly came to where I was seated and I told her that I wanted to exchange the jewelry; while I argued in my head about how to form the argument for the return she interrupted my thoughts with “… no problem madam, just select something else you like and we’ll settle the difference in the end.”

Just like that!!! No explanation asked!!! For a big ticket item like this one!

They invested as much time in me as they’d done the previous day, without a frown, knowing that I wasn’t going  to generate any new revenue for them and/or additional commission for the sales assistant. Kudos to their customer service. And for making my purchase experience so smooth and easy.

  • Note: This is the only brand across all categories we covered for our research, where we’ve seen excellent after-sales service, where they not only met but surpassed our expectations.

 

Satisfactory: Orra

  • Staff are polished compared to those at traditional jewelers; Salesmen in neat blue shirts, well-groomed. They were very welcoming and approachable.
  • When asked for price and details of a pair of earring we liked, we weren’t given any clarity on the diamond grades used and instead of just giving us the price, he offered to make a “good deal” for us and then told us the price. While this may be common practice at traditional jewelry stores, in a modern format it felt slightly gimmicky.

 

Unsatisfactory, a few examples of what we didn’t like:

  • Shabby doorman, unshaven sales persons, unshaven owner – typically observed in the more family-run standalone jewelry stores.
  • At one of the leading jewelry chains, the sales staff wasn’t welcoming, didn’t offer us a seat, neither did they ask about what we were looking for, nor did they initiate any conversation with us. Only when we started asking questions about their different jewelry lines and diamond quality, etc. did they share information.
  • At some stores, they only offered water/ tea/ coffee after we had already spent some time looking at jewelry and had set some pieces aside.
  • Also, some sales persons insisted on finding out our budget even before showing us one piece of jewelry. Even when we clearly stated that we didn’t have any budget constraints and pointed at a pair of earrings that we wished to see, the sales persons refused to take it out without knowing our budget …“Phir bhi madam, kitne tak ka dekhna hai”.
  • Also, some sales persons, even without asking for a discount, started offering ‘a special rate, just for you’-type of deals. They made us even more suspicious of the original quoted price.

 

Our verdict: The grade for the performance of staff at stores we were impressed with would be A+, the rest get a B.

Next stop: Electronics.

 

By,

Escape Velocity Team.

 

[Disclaimer: This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.]

August 24, 2011 at 5:20 am 15 comments

The Shopping Experience: Travails at Health and Glow

This post is by a guest contributor, Anita B.

When Health and Glow (H&G) first made an appearance, I used to be a loyal customer. There was usually one in the neighbourhood, making access easy. The products were also displayed nicely in aisles, making it a vastly different experience from the grocery stores where I used to normally stock up on toiletries and cosmetics.

I still use the store, but only occasionally and only because I am used to shopping at H&G, but the experience is nowhere near as nice as I remember it. For one, the novelty of having products displayed neatly is now gone. Everybody does that. Also, I invariably don’t find at least one item on my shopping list in H&G.

The biggest problem though, is the service provided in H&G. This is what I have observed:

  1. There are too many salespeople in each store. The aisles are quite narrow in the stores and when they are filled up with so many salespeople, it is difficult to move around.
  2. The salespeople just stand around gossiping the whole time. Possibly because there are usually fewer customers than salespeople and most of them have nothing to keep them occupied.
  3. I can never expect anyone to actually help me purchase a product. For instance, when I asked for a sunscreen for combination skin, SPF 20 and above, waterproof and to be used in a pool, the salespeople were stumped. The only times when I have actually been helped are when I’ve asked for a specific brand. Alternately I browse the aisles myself.
  4. Sometimes even that does not work. I was once told that a specific brand I was looking for was out of stock, only to find it myself on the shelves when I did a little digging around.
  5. The only people eager to assist a customer are the brand-specific salespeople such as the persons handling Olay or Neutrogena products. That said, these people are eager to the point of being aggressive. Without being asked, I have been subjected to a loud and embarrassing analysis of my skin’s pigmentation levels in an effort to get me to buy a night cream.

I shop at H&G not because of its sales force, but in spite of it.

[This post was written 3 months ago but we recently heard from Anita that she had a much better experience when she recently visited the store. The sales service has improved considerably at H&G; perhaps branded retail outlets are realizing the need for better sales staff and service and investing more towards it. – Editor]

By,

Anita B.

Here are the links to our previous posts on the theme of this month: experience of shopping for premium branded goods in India, for high-street apparel and accessories and for premium cosmetics & skincare products.

>> Coming up next: Jewelry

August 19, 2011 at 4:57 am 2 comments

The Shopping Experience: Premium Cosmetics & Skincare

The format we will follow in this post is the same as in the last post : begin by specifically mentioning those stores/brands that we think were good examples, and then give a few instances (without naming the brand) of those that were average or less than satisfactory.

Impressive : Lancome, Mac

Both brands had a lot in common – highly knowledgeable staff that were persuasive without being pushy, and were sensitive to consumer problems and preferences.

Lancome: Allow you to take your time examining products on the shelves, answer your questions and gently nudge you towards discussing your skin, it’s health and your skin care routine. From there it’s just a small step to using the viewer- with-magnification (that’s what I call it) to show you the blemishes / defects on your skin. And that device is effective ! It took every ounce of my self-control to walk away without buying a bushel of products.

(Note : My friend returned a few days later, along with a relative, and bought bucket-loads of stuff; I’m still holding out.)

Mac: Spent time with us, showed what would suit our skin the best; also, taught us how to use some of the products.

 

Satisfactory : Clinique, The Body Shop, Forest Essentials

These stores had knowledgeable staff, but not in the same class as the two mentioned above.

 

Not-so-good, a few examples of what we didn’t like :

  • Overall, little product knowledge. The sales assistant at one store started showing me sunscreens when I asked about moisturisers; at the same store, another sales assistant did not know the difference between various anti-ageing products
  • At another store, the sales assistant had no knowledge of the difference between products from two different ranges that were priced a few thousand rupees apart. After much prodding, she remembered that the expensive one had a different ingredient but she could not explain the benefit of this ingredient to us. Finally she told us that it was more expensive and that was the only difference!
  • At one store, when I picked up a bottle of moisturiser and asked about the price, the sales assistant told me that I should use a product meant for older women only, but then didn’t give me any details as to how it would benefit my skin (even my 5 year old nephew knows enough to say, “big people’s things are for big people only, and small people’s things are different”, but from anyone older, I expect details).
  • Unheeding to client needs/ preferences – either don’t know enough to respond to these or are just too lazy to check

Our verdict : The performance of staff at stores in this category was so varied that we’d hesitate to give an overall grade. Some stores get an A+, the rest get a C-.

[Disclaimer : This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.

Outlets mentioned in these posts will differ widely in terms of pricing, degree of premiumness and image; for the purposes of these blog-posts, we are still tackling all these outlets together.]

By,

Escape Velocity Team

August 16, 2011 at 5:11 am 7 comments

The Shopping Experience: High Street Apparel and Accessories

[Disclaimer : This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.
Outlets mentioned in these posts will differ widely in terms of pricing, degree of premiumness and image; for the purposes of these blog-posts, we are still tackling all these outlets together.]

The format we will follow is to begin by specifically mentioning those stores/brands that we think were good examples, and then give a few instances (without naming the brand) of those that were average or less than satisfactory.

Classy : Burberry

The sales executives at the Burberry store at Palladium were best-in-class, that’s the reason we choose to call them sales ‘execs’ and not sales ‘assistants’. In terms of presentation, they fit the brand to a ‘T’, poised, stylish and genteel. They were welcoming, knowledgeable about the collection, informative and yet un-intrusive. They encouraged us to look around, were available for assistance if needed, but let us take our time looking at stuff. When asked about a particular type of bag, they were enthusiastic about showing all available models that fit the requirements and described their attributes.

 

Satisfactory : Zara, Vero Moda and Promod

Promod: The salesperson was aware of what merchandise they had, and readily helped people find the right size etc.

Vero Moda: Though there was only one sales assistant on the floor, she was very efficient and helped multiple people in the store. When asked for help, she promptly found the size that one of our team was looking for and was confident about the fit.

Zara:  Though the sales assistants here seemed really busy, rushing about the store folding things, stacking them etc, they were willing to help when approached. They knew the sizes that were available, and walked over to the racks to help find clothes in the required size.

One comment though, we might have felt less hesitant about approaching them for help if they didn’t appear so harried and rushing around.

[Since this survey is not exhaustive, not mentioning a brand in the two sections above need not mean that we were not happy with the salespeople there, we may not have visited the outlet]

Not-so-good, a few examples of what we didn’t like :

  • In one store with 4 sales assistants, 3 of them were gossiping at the cash counter, while the fourth was busy combing out her damp hair in the mirror !
  • In two stores, the sales assistants did not bother to even say ‘hello’ or offer to help, even when we rifled through merchandise trying to find something – non-intrusive is fine, but this is taking it a bit far. One of these intently stared at the computer at the cash counter and furiously tapped keys every so often, whether checking monthly sales or playing a game on it.
  • Often noticed a slight reluctance by sales people to actually approach the racks / shelves, almost as if they were afraid that the area was infected with a contagious disease ! Many seemed satisfied to just point in the general direction of the right rack and tell you that whatever sizes were in stock were on the rack.
  • However, we noticed in one of the shops that even the salesperson that didn’t show much initiative in helping us was very enthusiastic about helping someone who had tried on some clothes and needed to find a better fit – she rushed to the racks, picked out clothes, took them over to changing room, waited there while woman changed, examined the outfit on her, gave her opinion, discussed it and then rushed off to find some accessories to match.

Our hypothesis : Even lackadaisical sales staff are enthusiastic about helping potential customers that seem further along the process towards a purchase, and hence contributing to their sales incentive. Hence the inertia to serve a customer until they display strong signs of intention-to-buy such as trying on outfits.

  • Another anecdote related to the process of trying on clothes illustrates a different point – store policy often doesn’t take into account how women like to shop, especially in India. Women often shop in groups or pairs, in order to have someone you trust give their opinion of how a particular outfit looks on you; it’s important to allow this pair to interact in or near the trial rooms.

Two of our friends visited one of these outlets; one entered a trial room to try on some clothes. The store prevented the second from standing outside the stall, so the first had to come right out of the trial room and into the store area to show her friend how she looked in the outfit – we’ve all been through this scenario, we may not like it, but we’re used to it, so far, so good.

Now one of the ladies decides to try on a back-zipped dress and needs help zipping it up. But the store won’t allow her friend to enter the trial room stall and zip it up. As per policy, their staff would provide the help needed; which would also be ok, except that the person manning the trial room was a guy !! Especially in India, this scenario just makes no sense at all.

 

So those are our observations, folks. Overall, we agree with some of Nafisa’s points. The sales experience and interactions at many of these stores could do with improvement.

Grade given by the Escape Velocity team : A few exceptions that surpassed expectations; overall, a B +.

 

Next stop: Cosmetics & Skincare

 

By,

Nafisa De Figueiredo and the Escape Velocity Team

August 11, 2011 at 6:25 am 11 comments

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