The past few years has rapidly caught on the wider global fitness trend and is driven by the country’s growing wealth, changing lifestyles and rising urbanisation which ultimately is leading to an increasing amount of Indian consumers becoming more health-conscious and thereby choosing to go outdoors for recreational activities. The country is changing and so are its people. Till date, we were assuming that it’s only the sportswear market which is headed for rise; little did we think that our fellow countrymen have suddenly become outdoorsy and are now open to a lot more than regular sport. The indulgence in activities like hiking, camping, mountaineering, cycling, canoeing, caving, kayaking, rafting, rock climbing, sailing, skiing, sky diving, surfing, etc. has given the category a push in the right direction. In fact, a study by Just Style maintains that the increased participation in these activities is expected to lead to retail sales growth of over 20% by 2020. And Woodland is one such brand that prides in offering the perfectly right assortment of outdoor gear for almost any activity. “We entered the Indian market about 25-26 years ago with just the footwear category. We wanted to sell and represent Woodland as a mainstream outdoor brand and so decided to open exclusive outlets. While the concept of single brand store and an outdoor concept attached to it was relatively new for consumers back then, they always liked the experience and gradually, we introduced categories like apparel, protective outdoor gear, etc., and today we are a one-stop shop for all things outdoorsy,” asserts Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland India.
As vast and powerful as the great outdoors
Indulging in recreational activities and the existing contemporary trends which include taking long vacations, going on bike rides, hiking, travelling, etc. has been instrumental in driving growth of outdoor category. Majority of the sportswear brands have a wide range of outdoor apparel which makes a rather significant contribution to the total brand revenue. The outdoor industry sales are now outpacing fashion sales, driving an explosion of new brands in the category. While a lot of brands entered the category, some prospered while others went down on the sale numbers. Harkirat Singh opined, “India has witnessed many international as well as local brands in the category. We feel that the overall category is getting bigger and no single brand is enough to cater to this demand. We need specialists in different categories of outdoor and we see other brands entering the segment to compliment us with their assortment of collections.” Today’s outdoorists are looking for technologically savvy outdoor apparel with versatile functionality rather than purchasing outdoor gear for every activity.
Sales of outdoor performance apparel is growing by double digits in emerging economies and Woodland is continuously expanding its product range in order to stay relevant and is a favourite one-stop destination for the outdoor enthusiasts. “Since we started with footwear, it still continues to have the bigger share in the total product assortment even as the apparel segment is catching up. The churn out time for apparel is also faster as compared to footwear which requires R&D, technological integration, etc., in the process. The apparel segment for us brings in almost 35% of the overall revenue while the rest is footwear and accessories,” says Harkirat. More than focusing on product categories, Woodland talks about the overall protection wherein it offers product assortment, including jackets, cargos, etc., light weight backpacks, sunglasses, headgear, footwear apt for difficult terrain, among other products for the outdoor enthusiasts. “We are in the right time in India for the categories we deal in. We offer everything in outdoors, including shoes, garments, equipment and accessories. We see this category continuously growing, especially for a brand which offers everything outdoor. We also try to give our products technical touch and constant innovation, for example, we try to make them skid-proof, waterproof and try to use the best technology which enables them to sustain any kind of outdoor torture. Even in garments category, we are trying to use technical fabrics which would make them comfortable and functional for every climate. If we keep innovating and offering the best of technology in our products at the right prices, we can keep ruling the outdoor segment in the times to come,” asserts Harkirat.
Back-end processes at Woodland
The lines between outdoor activities are blurring and the sales of traditional outdoor apparel manufactured for specific activities are becoming stagnant with time and so, Woodland is trying to make sure to offer a huge assortment of products ranging from sports, functional and hard-core outdoor merchandise. “Normally, we used to work on two seasons calendar and later made it a four seasons’ one wherein we included pre-winter as well as pre-summer. I think this is better for the brand because people keep looking for something new at the store. The pre-winter collection comprise of lightweight jackets, fleece skirts and other lightweight clothing. Similarly in summers, we offer pre- and postcollections to maintain the newness. While we have some core products, especially in footwear category, which has been there for years now, we keep introducing the other collections regularly. These core products are very popular among our consumers and they want it to be the same; and so, we do some tweaking in these and reintroduce them as our core product range,” informs Harkirat.
So, how exactly does this outdoor-gear major manufacture its products? Woodland prides in having both – in-house production facility as well as vendors in different locations to take care of its manufacturing needs. Harkirat avers, “Around 70% of our production is in-house and the remaining 30% is outsourced. For footwear, our factories are located in the North, besides Himachal Pradesh, and for apparel, we operate in our factories in Delhi-NCR. Besides these, we work with vendors based in Bangalore (India), Bangladesh as well as Vietnam. Almost 60% of our total outsourced products come from Bangladesh which comprises mainly apparel, whereas footwear is mainly manufactured in India and Vietnam.” While a brand like Woodland does require a huge vendor base to fulfil its manufacturing needs, it’s definitely not without quality checks and proper guidance. “We have very stringent criteria to select our vendors with whom we work. We make sure they meet our quality standards. We see their units, the kind of brands they are working with, manufacturing facilities they have, their approach towards their workers, etc. before entering into an agreement. Once we locate them, we give them our specifications, tech packs and everything else that would help them make the right product for us. We have an in-house team to visit the factory for quality checks. At Woodland, all our products are designed in-house along with the R&D required,” explains the Managing Director of Woodland India.
With the trend moving towards fast-fashion, quick replenishment is how things roll at a brand like Woodland. While initially, the lead time used to be 90 days, it has come down to around 45-60 days for both apparel and footwear. However, as Harkirat informed, the brand keeps buffer of raw materials in stock to be able to convert the urgent orders within no time.
Woodland has always been a brand associated with nature. The brand is now looking at going big with its new campaign ProPlanet through which it is trying to focus on keeping its brand message aligned with the product line that caters to the outdoor enthusiasts. Woodland is also revamping its brand stores to zero carbon footprint ones under this initiative and already owns about 5 zero carbon footprint stores. Even as such initiatives cost more (at least 25-30%), Woodland is planning to push the number by another 25 by the end of the fiscal year. This outdoor brand has never roped in any celebrity as the face of the brand but collaborates with those people who have worked in such terrains and climatic conditions and are true adventurists. These real-life explorers are the likes of Padma Shri Love Raj Singh Dharmshaktu (the first-ever Indian to have climbed Mt. Everest for the seventh time), Ajeet Bajaj (the first Indian skier to complete the polar trilogy), Paras Loomba (empowering villages of Ladakh region with solar power) and many more. “Whatever processes we have in manufacturing, the raw materials we use, are all eco-friendly. We work with lot of organisations like, WWF, UNICEF, etc. to help facilitate our agenda of being a nature-friendly brand. With the technology already available, we have been able to make T-shirts which are made of plastic pet bottles, and also made footwear which are bio-degradable. I would say that all our products are sustainable though not 100%,” prides Harkirat.
An easy availability goes a long way
Woodland understands the nerves of the market and makes sure to be available at the convenience of its discerning consumers. The brand prides in an expansive retail presence wherein it sells through 600 exclusive brand stores, multi-brand stores like Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, etc. and also through online players like Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm and woodlandworldwide.com. The brand also understands the potential of the Tier-2 and Tier-3 markets and has a good presence in these areas as well. Even as the brand started with metros, it gradually went to smaller towns. “30% of our 600 EBOs are in Tier-2 areas. Metros are definitely good for us for revenue generation but Tier-2 is also doing well for us. Cities like Pune, Nagpur, etc. are performing wonderfully for Woodland. However, I think the MBOs work better for us in the smaller cities because they already have a customer base and they do not need the complete range or very high-end products in store,” maintains Harkirat.
Woodland also prides in having a presence in foreign lands even as it mainly works through distributors in these countries. Harkirat informs, “We also have distributors in Middle East where we have our own set-up with our warehouse and office which takes care of the brand functioning. Similarly in South Africa, China and Russia, we operate through distributors. We are not planning to open EBOs there but will continue working with multi-brand stores. We have opened few EBOs in Hong Kong and will open further outlets once we understand these markets better. India is our main market right now. We do almost about 75-80% of our business here and the rest 20-25% comes from international markets.”
Woodland has been there for ages now and is a one-stop shop for all outdoor requirements. While the market was not ready at the time when Woodland entered the Indian soil back in 1992, today it is an indispensable brand for the adventurists in the country. Today, the brand is at the top of its game and is planning to continue the same in the times to come. “We have crossed a turnover of Rs. 1,200 crore and this is almost about 12% higher than the previous year. So, we are growing at a consistent rate of around 15% on yearon-year basis, and are opening around 30-40 stores every year. We look for a potential location before opening an outlet. Last year, we figured that we are not present in Imphal, Kohima and so opened stores there,” concludes Harkirat.