“Sportswear blurs the lines between gyms and airports”

NEW DELHI : In view of a dynamic festival season, Puma should significantly exceed its 2021 turnover of 2,000 crores this year. In an interview, Abhishek Ganguly, Managing Director of Puma India and Southeast Asia, said the sportswear brand focuses on the omnichannel shopper and reaches out to its customers through popular icons of the sports, music and film fraternities. Edited excerpts:

How important are holiday sales, knowing that Puma is a sportswear brand?

The fact is that in India, consumers spend a lot of money during this period. There is a festive environment and a goal to spend more money. It’s a very important season for us, and historically. Just to put it into context, the second half of the year represents 60-62% of our activity across all channels and categories, compared to 38-40% in the first half. This is largely due to holiday season sales, but also the fact that northern and eastern India have winters and the average sale price of clothing is increasing. But the majority of the sales surge in the second half is due to the holiday season, as people end up spending more money.

So, do you expect to exceed pre-covid sales?

For sure. Last year was greater than 2019. And last year we still had the effect of the second wave of covid and there was a big brake in the business. In the consumer’s mind, what had happened was still very fresh. The wounds had definitely not healed. This year, the consumer sentiment and mood of commerce, real estate, shopping malls, e-commerce platforms are super positive, and expectations are very high. Initial trends I’m seeing over the weekend across all channels, we’re probably looking at phenomenal growth over the next three months.

The company redid 2,000 crore revenue in 2021. What kind of jump do you expect?

I won’t be able to share the exact number; I can only tell you that we have had phenomenal growth from last year’s numbers. I expect unprecedented demand in our category and in our brand.

Online activities account for 43% of Puma’s overall sales. Do you see it decreasing given the fact that people are on the move?

As a percentage, I won’t know until the end of the year, because this season will determine it. But I can tell you that this time the buoyancy is very high for offline. Retailers are back. They say this is our year to pick up business and not just for the sportswear category but for the entire fashion industry. Brands like us are growing and opening more stores. Online sales have increased further. Some platforms are up more than 50% over last year in our category. You have a lot of data to work with online, and brands that work closely with these platforms are able to achieve a lot of savings in terms of assortment or price, which drives organic growth. We have built our shopping app in India.

Are you too dependent on e-commerce?

We understand our business and where the consumers are. Today we have over 410 single brand stores in India. We have a strong commitment to our multi-brand stores, such as Shopper Stop and Lifestyle, and regional retailers like Kapsons. We have never been opponents of e-commerce, and we started it when e-commerce started in India. It’s not because of the covid that we had to pivot our business. We would not have become market leaders if we had preferred one channel over another and this will continue to be our strategy as consumers now want to shop omnichannel.

In terms of products and prices, is there a conflict between online and offline channels?

Over time, we discovered what consumers buy and on which channel, at what price and in which categories. If you put everything everywhere, then there is definitely a conflict. So we have a product distribution strategy that depends on the channel. If you’re in Delhi and you go to, say, our Select City Walk store and you pick up a product and you search online, 95-98% of the time you either won’t find that product online, either you will find it at the same price, because we will list it ourselves as a seller where we can control the price.

Your brand ambassadors include Virat Kohli, Kareena Kapoor and even singer Harrdy Sandhu. Who is your target consumer?

Well, we believe sportswear transcends the boundaries of the field and the court. It has a strong influence on culture, music, art, movies and entertainment. If you look at people who dress up at the airport for an airport look or go clubbing, you will see that they are wearing sportswear. We call this the gym-to-runway (airports) strategy. So, between the gymnasium and the track, the lines blur. Be it Bollywood, artists on the OTT platform or models, they are doing athleisure sport. Therefore, we will always be rooted in sport and will always be associated with athletes like Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Sunil Chhetri, Mary Kom and Duti Chand, as well as Bangalore Football Club and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

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