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European footwear brand AstorMueller says India will be its largest market in 5 years

European shoemaker AstorMueller, which retails brands such as bugatti and BAGATT in India, expects India to become its largest market in the next five years. The shoemaker was among the first few European shoemakers to recognize India’s capability in shoemaking and consequently established a strong manufacturing base here since early 2000s.

Currently, India is where majority of its products are made, accounting for over two-thirds of its global sourcing and growing. Recently, AstorMueller started opening retail stores in the country, and now has three outlets.

“We are resolute in establishing a strong presence in the Indian market and we intend to establish a robust retail presence in the top 10 cities over the next 18 months,” says Tim Mueller, Chairman of AstorMueller, in an exclusive chat with IMAGES Business of Fashion magazine’s N Bobo Meitei.

Excerpts from the exclusive…

 

What factors have motivated AstorMueller to expand its footprint in India?

Over the past decade, Indian footwear market has seen tremendous growth along with the economy in general. Also, with a young population and strong economic fundamentals, India is set to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. Indian consumers are also evolving in their choices and preferences. They have a distinctive fashion sense and largely prioritize their personal preferences over perceived global trends. Moreover, we are discussing a customer base which is consuming luxury brands at an ever-increasing pace on the one hand, but also demands value for money on the other.

All these factors make India one of the most important markets for this decade and considering we already have an established manufacturing base in the country, expanding into retail was the next logical step in our Indian journey.

Can you discuss how the two brands are positioned in the Indian market?

While bugatti has always been synonymous with effortless style and sophistication from the streets of Europe, BAGATT represents the very latest in hi-fashion with a distinct Italian flair. Common to both are three pillars that underline the design ethos at AstorMueller: impeccable craftsmanship, perfect fit, and trendsetting designs.

At present, both the brands are housed under one roof. Given the difference in brand DNA as well the target market, will they have separate stores?

While both brands are retailed out of the same stores right now, in the longer term we intend to have exclusive outlets for each of our brands. Presently, in the digital space, they are retailed separately.

What happened to the arrangement you had in place with Iconic Fashion Retailing?

Our extensive growth and investment plans for India needed direct focus from the company, hence we decided to set up our own subsidiary for the Indian business. If India has to become the largest market for the group in near future, it needs to be closely managed by us.

How much of the product manufacturing is done in India and how much do you import? What is the capacity of the manufacturing units here?

We were among the first few European shoemakers to recognize India’s capability in shoemaking and consequently established a strong manufacturing base here since early 2000’s. Currently, India is where majority of our products are made, accounting for over two-thirds of our global sourcing and growing.

One of your taglines is ‘Latest from Europe’. Do all those designs that work in Europe work in India as India is quite a diverse market or do you tweak them?

Owing to differences in weather, foot type and fashion preferences, a certain level of customization is necessary for the Indian market. So, while a significant part of our collection is common across Europe and India, we do design shoes specifically for the Indian market.

What are some of the technologies that you have introduced in your latest product offering?

AstorMueller is where Tech Meets Shoe Excellence, and we regularly introduce special technological features. Some of our features include: Air series: A high-grade soft outsole material that makes the shoes super light; Flex city: a flexible and abrasion-resistant sole, for a comfort when walking and; Genial Insole: High-Tech insole specially made for soft
walking and optimum shock absorption.

How important a role does sustainability play at AstorMueller?

AstorMueller is highly committed to sustainability and environmental compliance. European standards are one of the best in world when it comes to sustainability, and we strictly follow all applicable environmental laws and regulations. We also ensure that all our suppliers follow these regulations through our Code of Conduct, which is a non-negotiable requirement. They have to use natural resources as eǸ ciently as possible.

What total store count are you eyeing in 2023? What’s your non-metro strategy?

We are resolute in establishing a strong presence in the Indian market and we intend to establish a robust retail presence in the top 10 cities over the next 18 months. This would obviously include important non-metro cities like Pune, Chandigarh, etc. We have already opened a store in Indore as it is a rapidly growing market with huge potential and are working on several cities like it across the country.

What was your last turnover and what figure are you expecting?

This is just the first year of our retail operations in India and we expect it to become the single largest market for the group in near future.

How much does India contribute to your overall revenue?

The India business today is a start-up within a 100-year-old organization. However, we expect it to become the single largest market for the group before the end of this decade.

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