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Stepping into high fashion

July 21, 2004 10:46 IST

Footwear brand Liberty is all set to tap the upmarket segment of the shoe business. It is launching its premium shoe retail brand Revolutions in Delhi around Diwali this year.

In January this year the company, Liberty Shoes Ltd, floated a subsidiary Liberty Retail Revolutions Ltd to move into the retail business. It opened Revolutions outlets in Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai a few months back to cater to the fashion conscious youth market.

Liberty is also tying up with a host of fashion designers such as Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rina Dhaka and Suneet Verma to develop footwear to match the clothes designed by them.

The company also plans to start manufacturing a host of leather accessories such as belts, wallets and travel bags. These are outsourced at the moment.

The company plans to open 24 Revolution outlets, mostly in state capitals, in the next 18 months. The estimated investments are Rs 24 crore (Rs 240 million) and Liberty hopes to achieve sales of Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) from each outlet in the next two years.

"The reason to get into the retail business is to close the gap between the manufacturer and the customer," explains Adarsh Gupta, executive director, Liberty Shoes. Will its foray into the fashion sector dilute its USP of providing comfortable footwear at affordable prices?

"Fashion is a booming business and more and more customers are demanding shoes that are stylish as well comfortable. I don't think we can afford to junk comfort for style. There has to be a balance," explains Gupta.

Liberty has 40 exclusive showrooms (of which four are company-owned and company-managed) and is also retailed from over 200-plus multi-brand outlets in the country. Gupta discounts the self-cannibalisation factor, saying that there would be a 30-40 per cent difference in the product lines between Revolution and Liberty exclusive outlets. "Products that debut at Revolution will only hit the Liberty exclusive outlets a year later," he says.

With the retail sector booming, Liberty Shoes is also ramping its manufacturing capacity. At present, the company has three manufacturing units that produce 10 million pairs a year. A fourth unit, in Dehradun, is set to become operational next month and will add 600,000 pairs.

The company hopes that in two years time the unit will be able to manufacture 1.5 million pairs.

According to industry sources, the footwear market is roughly around Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion), of which the branded segment is valued at Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion). Liberty Shoes turnover last fiscal was Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion).
Yusuf Begg in New Delhi