Four brands nearing Rs. 500 cr annual revenue


December 18, 2011

Sapna Agarwal, MINT (A Wall Street Journal partner)
Mumbai, December 18, 2011

Four apparel brands are expected to exceed Rs. 500 crore in revenue in the year to March as they acquire scale rapidly and expand into new territories and categories, signifying the maturing of the organized retail business in India, according to analysts. All this in a slowdown year.

The four are kidswear apparel brand Lilliput, United Colors of Benetton, Nalli and FabIndia.

“This will be the single largest addition in a year,” said Raghav Gupta, principal, Booz and Co., a consulting firm.

Most of the existing Rs. 500 crore brands, such as Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Peter England, Koutons, Levi’s and Raymond, took 12-15 years or more to achieve this scale. Younger brands will need lesser time.

“The Rs. 500-crore mark is a psychological threshold, and signifies a critical mass that is now available in the market in terms of consumer incomes and willingness to spend for premium brands,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight, a Delhi-based retail consultancy.

Most of these companies have a positive outlook despite the gloomy overall economic scenario, with growth set to slow in the current fiscal year. The optimism is based on the fact that organized apparel retail was just 17% of the overall $36 billion apparel market as of 2010 and is estimated to grow to 25% of the overall market by 2015, according to Booz and Co.

The growth of organized retail is based on increasing penetration in smaller towns and growing consumer demand.

For instance, Madura Fashion and Lifestyle, the lifestyle garments business of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, which has the largest portfolio of Rs. 500 crore brands—Van Heusen, Louis Philippe and Peter England— achieved breadth as operations were expanded and they diversified to become lifestyle brands.

As such, Van Heusen, a men’s formals brand, now has a casualwear range VDot and a women’s wear range. Van Heusen and Louis Philippe have tripled their footprint from 40-50 stores to 120-150 each in the past three years. Peter England has scaled up from 200 stores three years ago to 500 now.

Over the past year, Lilliput has more than doubled the space under operations from 470,000 sq. ft to 1 million sq. ft. The retailer has got on board private equity investors TPG and Bain, and is looking at raising another Rs. 500 crore to fund its plans, said Sanjeev Narula, chairman, Lilliput.

Besides expansion, “the average bill value has also risen by 20-30% over a period of two-three years as a result of consumers buying more quantity and also buying higher-value products,” said Ashish Dixit, president, Madura Fashion and Lifestyle.

As a result, the business has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 30% in the last two-three years, compared with 15-20% in the 1990s, Dixit said.

US Polo, an American brand, expects to touch Rs. 500 crore revenue within five years. The brand, launched in India in 2009, expects to close fiscal 2012 with a revenue of Rs. 160 crore.

“This is the fastest growing brand in India,” said Alok Dubey, chief operations officer, Arvind Lifestyle Brands, a unit of Arvind Ltd, the licensee for the brand in India.

Brands such as Lilliput are aiming to achieve Rs. 1,000 crore in another two-three years. “It took us eight years to reach Rs. 500 crore, but the next milestone of Rs. 1,000 crore will be achieved in a year’s time,” said Narula of Lilliput.

Madura Fashion has similar ambitions. “The journey from Rs. 500 crore to Rs. 1,000 crore for two of the three brands will happen in the next two years,” said Dixit.

“Brands with weak foundations and a focus only on revenue growth have been weaned out over the last one-two years,” said Gupta, referring to retailers such as Koutons Retail India Ltd, which got stuck with large inventories and debt in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008-09. “Only companies with quality management and strong pedigree of brands portfolio have come through.”