Ganesh Kumar, COO, Lifestyle Business, Raymond India, is elated that the Raymond store in Noida closed a sale of Rs 5.5 lakh last week through its newly launched concierge service. The customer booked the service online and the Raymond salesperson went to his house with the swatches from which the customer chose his wedding suit and thereafter made an online payment.
A sale of Rs 5.5 lakh from a single customer at a time when most apparel majors are struggling to woo consumers to shop is undoubtedly heartening. Kumar says that instances like these are an indication that it is definitely not doomsday for the apparel industry. Raymond, says Kumar, is at 60 per cent of pre-Covid sales.
While April-July was a complete washout, the months of August and September witnessed a 20 per cent growth. "In the last four weeks, our average daily sale has been in the region of Rs 2-4 crore, which is 37-38 per cent of pre-Covid levels. The festive season should help us revive."
The fastest to bounce back in the new normal has been the tier 2-3-4 market, which according to Kumar is at 85 per cent of pre-Covid sales levels. "The smaller markets have been far more resilient. They contribute 35 per cent to our overall revenue, and have recovered by 85 per cent. The stores in the malls in bigger cities are generating less than 50 per sales." From introducing appointment-based store visits to taking the Raymond products to people's homes through its concierge service, the apparel major has introduced a host of new initiatives to make its physical stores safe and hygienic. On the product front, the company is soon going to launch its virus-safe collection, which says Kumar, would have a chemical coating that would make it resistant to certain bacteria and viruses.
However, the big shift for the legacy apparel company has been the switch to digital. It has recently launched its web site, MyRaymond.com. "Digital was not an after-thought, but it wasn't in the forefront either," says Kumar. Going forward, the company also plans to extensively use data analytics to offer specialised services to its customers. "We have the largest repository of body measurements. We will find a way to use that data to come up with garments that are relevant for every Indian. We will also use data analytics to measure store performance."
COVID-19 and the lockdown gave Raymond time to introspect, and one of the realisations has been to make the brand more contemporary. While the new work from home reality has led the brand to focus more on its casual collection, across its Park Avenue and Color Plus brands, Ganesh says that the plan is also to contemporarise its formal wear brand, Raymond. "A powerful brand like Raymond has the ability to be relevant to consumers across age-groups, therefore, not only are we going to offer extremely formal suits and blazers, we will also look at more casual jackets," he explains.
On the business front, the company is also looking at ways to manage capital efficiency. It is looking at doing away with the age-old practice of spring-summer and autumn-winter collections and moving towards launching a collection every quarter in order to be able to offer fresh designs and ensure better inventory management. Efficient inventory management has been the biggest lesson that COVID has taught most apparel retailers. When the lockdown began in mid-March the spring-summer collection had just arrived in most of the apparel stores and three months of no sales led to huge amounts of excess inventory. "For the Autumn-winter collection, we had already taken orders in January-February this year," Kumar explains.
When does Raymond expect business to be at its erstwhile level? "September was as per our expectations and I expect another 10-15 per cent growth in the next six months. However, the real test will be in the January to March quarter. If we sail through that quarter then demand is definitely back," says Kumar, who is not too sure if the current blip is pent up demand or whether the consumers are actually open to spending.
However, on a lighter note he says that demand is certainly coming back. "During the first three months of the lockdown people didn't not bother to dress up for virtual meetings. A round-collared t-shirt is all that they would wear, but I see them increasingly moving to polos and even plain colour formal shirts. This trend will give a fillip to our formal wear collection."