The innerwear category has broadened from being a basic requirement to designer wear with emphasis on styling and comfort. According to Statista, the innerwear category is currently estimated to be worth Rs. 470 billion in 2020 from Rs. 270 billion in 2015. And, the women’s innerwear segment has grown in the recent years and is estimated to be worth Rs. 273 billion in 2023.
The women’s innerwear or the lingerie growth story in India is at its most promising phase right now with increasing demand for stylish, sensuous and premium innerwear. It is no more a hush- hush segment but a more evolved one which has attracted a large number of women openly demanding for the most attractive and innovative piece with uber confidence. This has also given a number of international brands an opportunity to enter this potential market.
One such lingerie major in Indian retail sector is Japan-based Wacoal, which entered India in 2016 and has become one of the go-to destinations for the best of lingerie in the country. Nobuhiro Katsumata, CEO, Wacoal India, shares insights into how the brand sees potential in the Indian market.
What is the scope of the lingerie market in India? How do you see it evolving in the years to come?
Nobuhiro Katsumata (NK): The upper middle-class is growing rapidly with GDP growth of over 7 per cent annually followed by an increase in disposable income. This is growing faster than GDP growth. While actual consumption is price-conscious, purchase behaviour for premium and international new added value is also increasing and women’s social advancement is rapidly advancing. We believe this market change will accelerate in the next 10 years and we see it as a great opportunity for Wacoal’s market expansion.
Wacoal is a brand well-known for its innovative take on lingerie. How has the lingerie consumer received these products? Walk us through the designing and research behind these products.
NK: By combining high quality materials, outstanding creative and talents working in every region and the technical innovations that have been cultivated in and inspired by Japan, we deliver on the promise of making women feel more beautiful. Our goal is that women everywhere should feel more beautiful. In addition to our focus on delivering beautiful, high-quality lingerie, we are also committed to helping women find bras that fit just right. We believe so strongly in the importance of good fit that we have trained a group of consultants to take accurate measurements and assist customers in choosing the style that will work best for their body types and lifestyles
What are Wacoal’s strategies for marketing these innovative products?
NK: In FY 2019, where the number of stores are fairly small, our promotional campaigns are centered around the opening areas of our stores. This is done through mall advertising, press ads in regional newspapers and outdoor advertising. By 2020, we plan to run nationwide advertisements which include brand ambassadors, TV commercials and an extensive PR campaign. At the same time, we will also promote social media and other digital platforms.
Elucidate on your retail presence — both online and offline. What are your plans for expansion in the country?
NK: At the end of FY 2018, we had 12 exclusive stores and we were able to cover the five major metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. We plan to set up 50 exclusive stores at the end of FY 2020 and 30 doors in the department stores format, bringing it to a total of 80 stores. By 2021, this will go up to a total of 150 stores, 70 exclusive stores and 80 departmental stores.
Are all Wacoal products manufactured in-house or are sourced from different vendors? Do you also source your products from India (in what percentage)? What are your sourcing strategies?
NK: Wacoal has its own manufacturing units all over the world where we produce over 80 per cent of our designs. We achieve high quality and high performance with this balanced mix of our own production units and research undertaken by Wacoal’s Human Science Research Centre. This is our biggest strength that differentiates us from other brands. We buy the bestsellers from Wacoal Group present in each country which best suits the Indian market. We are also beginning to develop exclusive merchandise for the Indian market and plan to expand this in the coming years.
What do you think are the challenges in the lingerie market in India?
NK: Lingerie market predominantly belongs to the unorganised sector. In the last few years though, we have seen an unprecedented growth in terms of category awareness. Having said that, the current market is still at a nascent stage with enormous potential to grow.