India has, in the past few years, become abreast with the trends in global arena and has come at par with the wider global fitness pulse. The booming economy and changing lifestyle preferences have compelled Indian consumers to be more health-conscious and add new health and wellness routines to their hectic lifestyles which has ultimately led to emergence of a number of retail brands in this segment – both global and Indian. According to a research report, the global market for Sports and Fitness Clothing is projected to reach US $ 231.7 billion by 2024. Sales came from emerging markets, such as India and Thailand, as well as the US, the world’s largest sportswear market. The research also indicates that technological developments designed to improve comfort and performance has also led to the growth in sales of sports apparel and Puma Sports has never failed in its endeavour to offer the technologically advanced, fashion forward, functional merchandise to its consumers in India as well as worldwide.
Riding the athleisure trend with panache
The sportswear category has recently undergone a huge displacement and is moving towards dressing for comfort even as being trendy and fashionable is in vogue for the consumers and thus evolved the concept of athleisure – a trendy extension of sportswear with a hint of function, comfort as well as style all incorporated in one. It is the new buzzword that has taken the stretchy leggings and tops out of the gym into everyday life, and Puma has truly understood this new trend and has been ruling the segment for years now. “Puma always had this trend at its heart. We are a sports style brand which says that besides being a performance brand, we have a style quotient as well. Athleisure has always been a unique proposition of our brand, much before the category became a hit. Athleisure takes the hardcore sportswear product and brings it into the practical, making it comfortable, smart and ready for the world,” maintains Atul Bajaj, Executive Director – Product, Merchandising & Supply Chain, Puma India.
Puma, despite being a late entrant in the category in India, has garnered momentum over the last 13 years and has now achieved a leadership position in the sportswear category in the country. “When we entered India, we decided that rather than going overboard with marketing, the best way to move forward is to open exclusive brand stores, thereby creating unique retail environment for the consumers. This was one of the many reasons for the immediate success of Puma Sports in India,” boasts Bajaj. The brand entered India in 2006 as a complete own subsidiary and has now become a market leader in terms of revenue generation.
A versatile range goes a long way
So, what really makes Puma India’s No.1 sportswear brand? Even as a host of new brands are making a beeline for India presently, Puma is all geared up for the ever-growing competition and claims to be growing every single year in ‘this buoyant market’. Puma offers an expansive range of products for consumers from varied age groups. For Puma, approximately 38% of its business comes from apparel, 10% is accessories and 52% is footwear. Even as this keeps changing season to season and from city to city, the brand maintains that its business is pretty much spread evenly between apparel and footwear. The sportswear major makes sure to maintain the freshness among all of its collections ensuring the growth trajectory remains positive. “Puma works on a four-season calendar because it is important for the brand that the consumer keeps getting new collection every quarter. Besides, we also introduce fresh infusions every month to keep things new and exciting for our discerning consumers. Of course, the collection doesn’t completely change but one gets a lot of newness coming in every month keeping in pace with today’s world is very fast moving and digitally connected,” informs Bajaj.
While the brand has numerable good selling products across categories, the brand has always tried to expand its horizons and enter new avenues. Puma is planning to enter the body wear segment with watches and has signed a global license partnership agreement with Fossil Group for the design development and distribution of Puma watches and smartwatches.
The midas touch of a celeb
Celebrity brand endorsement is the new in-thing in retail in India and worldwide, and Puma has the best of the best as its face. The brand has recently appointed boxer Mary Kom as its brand ambassador for women’s training category. Kom will lead the brand’s advertising campaign #DoYou that aims to motivate women to be strong and accomplish their goals. Also, Puma has co-created One8 with Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli which has greatly impacted sales and revenue at Puma. Bajaj excitedly tells, “One8 has got its own philosophy. While most of the fashion trends come from outside India, here we have collaborated with an Indian sports star who is known for his own fashion sense, co-creating a range of quality products for India. Kohli puts in a lot of thought process in the range building. We have had tremendous success with One8. The kind of sales number we are generating from these range so quickly is just hard to believe and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that we are offering India something which is made especially for India.” While the One8 products are being sold right now at Puma exclusive stores and the multi brand stores, the brand might plan to have exclusive outlets for One8 in the times to come. Also, Puma is exporting One8 merchandise to countries like in Middle East and is looking to expand it in UK and Canada as well. Puma has always been upfront on using the celebrity endorsement in order to connect with the consumers around the world.
What goes in the back-end?
Even as the country is head over heels in love for the very stylish, technologically advanced merchandise by Puma, what really goes into making them what they are? First and foremost, Puma truly believes that India has evolved as a fashion consuming market and the consumers wants to be exposed to what is trending globally. Bajaj affirms, “We are at heart a global brand. Gone are the days when one would need a completely different range of collection for a country like India. Today, people want to be up-to-date and they want to be wearing the latest stuff which people are wearing globally.”
The leading sportswear brand has a global sourcing strategy wherein it has centralized factories across the globe which manufactures products for every country Puma has presence in. “We do not own the factories; however, we work very closely as partners. We give them all the inputs and have our teams always present in order to ensure that the products are made exactly how they were conceptualized to be made. We believe that a global brand like ours cannot run two parallel design centres as the design language essentially needs to be the same worldwide. Our team in India works in synergy with the international team. Also, we have a design team based in Germany which works exclusively for the Indian market,” he points.
The brand does have a ‘decent number of manufacturing units’ in India as well which produces both footwear and apparel, but it is decided on the feasibility of it. The Indian team brief the design team in Germany on the Indian market, who in turn, amalgamate the global design language into the Indian need and come up with an Indian suited collection. The ultimate focus remains that there cannot be a compromise on quality and aesthetics of the brand.
While Puma does understand that sourcing from India would save on transportation costs, lessen the lead time, etc., quality and brand aesthetics are the base of any manufacturing decision. Also, the products manufactured in India are supplied to the brand globally as it’s imported from other countries to India.
An eye for a great retail presence
For Puma, India is clearly a market of focus and the brand has never restrained from making big investments in the country, in terms of opening more retail stores and innovating its online shopping website. Puma has 365 exclusive Puma brand outlets across the country. Besides, the brand also retails through large format stores like Lifetstyle, Shoppers Stop, Central, etc. “We are at the leadership position and we will continue to stay relevant in this market. Also, we have been very careful about opening our stores; the expansion at Puma has not been without thought,” asserts Bajaj.
As much as Puma pushes for innovation and newness in its product categories, the brand pays utmost attention to the retail format as well. A brand of the scale of Puma understands that every retail format has its own space and importance because it is catering to different types of consumers and different scale that it is trying to achieve. Also, while the range available at a Puma store differs from store to store basis the kind of consumer base the area has, interestingly, the range varies even between an EBO and a LFS present in the same shopping mall or in the same catchment area.
Going forward, e-commerce will drive major sales for brands and Puma understands the trend pretty well. For Puma, online contribute to about 12% of business presently and the brand is working extensively to make its online platform Puma.com a better and more convenient place to shop. Besides, the brand also has successful partnerships with online players like Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon.
Right marketing is the key
Puma India is spending a good amount in marketing and signing the right kind of people to endorse the brand and connect with the consumers. Puma doesn’t believe in traditional mediums at all for marketing and has maintained that digital will have 90% share of its marketing spends.
According to a Euromonitor research, the sportswear market in India will grow at a CAGR of 11.3% for the 2016-2021 period. While Puma is ruling the sportswear category leaving behind the likes of Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Skechers, the brand plans to continue working towards staying relevant for the consumers. The brand’s success comes against the backdrop of the athleisure trend that has overpowered the sportswear category. While most or all the brands continue to boast performance and technology, Puma is focusing on style as well as performance and technology that make its products attractive to consumers. The brand’s list of global brand ambassadors too including the likes of Adriana Lima and Selena Gomez proves that it connects with its target consumers phenomenally. Bajaj boasts, “We have been growing at 40% CAGR and still intend to keep growing at a rate of 30% moving on even when we already are at No. 1 position in the country.” Puma’s One8 also clocked Rs. 100 crore in sales within the first year of its launch.