The Delhi-based Ebony Retail Holdings - which sells garments,
household items, gift articles, perfumes,
jewellery, furniture, bathroom accessories through the Ebony
chain, and books, music and coffee through its Wordsworth chain
- is on an expansion spree.
The Rs.56-crore turnover company has plans to open a dozen outlets
by investing Rs 130 crore. It recently opened a 40,000-sq ft six-storey
departmental store in Chennai costing Rs 8 crore. Ebony already
had seven such stores in major metros in the country.
Part of the $350-million NRI-promoted UK-based DS group, with
interests in real estate, trading, leisure management,
infrastructure, Ebony Retail had set up its first store in New
Delhis upmarket South Extension area. Since then it went into
hibernation for quite some time. In the meantime, the country saw
apparel retail chains like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Globus,
Pantaloons, ITC Wills Lifestyle and several others mushrooming all
over the country.
We first decided to test out our format in detail so as to
correct the glitches before stepping out of Delhi, says
executive director B S Narula. After four years, Ebony Retail
finally decided to move to other cities. Our store layout is
user-friendly in terms of movement from one department to another
or in display of goods.
Ebony Retail struck
alliances with other retail chains like Viveks Ltd for consumer
durables, Bata for footwear and Qwikys for coffee pubs.
Simultaneously, Ebony Retail also started promoting its own brand,
Ebony ETC, by offering these as add-on to other popular brands
that are displayed in the departmental store. Shoppers like to
try out a new brand while buying well-known brands. The sales of
new labels will remain low initially as building brand-equity
takes time, says chief operating officer H S Kohli.
This learning is vital, as retail chains have to focus and spend
on attracting quality footfalls before spending on their private
label promotions. Building brand-equity is an expensive affair in
the readymade garment market. For the destination stores,
conversion of footfalls into purchases is important to get the
bottomline right. According to Kohli, the company will be spending
5 to 7 per cent of its turnover on store promotion.
The company has gone for simple IT solutions rather than spending
a fortune on ERP solutions. We started with a simple
FoxPro-based system. Now a US-based company is developing
solutions for our front- and back-end operations that will also
support our customer loyalty programme. For the bookstore, a
Chennai-based company is doing the work, says Narula.
Ebony Retail has decided to set up its own training institute for
apprentices who would be given jobs in Ebony stores after their
training is completed. The company opened its second outlet in
West Delhi followed by stores in Noida, Chandigarh, Ludhiana,
Jalandhar before moving to Chennai. The next Ebony store will be
opened in Indore this month. Ebony Retail will be opening outlets
in Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Bangalore at a cost of Rs 30 crore.
The company is selling books, music, toys and coffee under the
brand name Wordsworth. So far, there are three Wordsworth outlets
within the Ebony Retail stores, but the company is now planning
standalone Wordsworth outlets as well.
The bookstore chain
accounts for 10 to 12 per cent of the companys turnover. Sixty
per cent of the bookstores revenues come from the sale of
books, 25 per cent from music and the balance is from toys and
coffee, says Kohli.
Why did the company go in for an alliance with other retail
chains? We decided form partnerships with leaders in the field
of consumer durables, footwear and coffee. They can offer a
complete range than us, says group vice-president Lalit Kumar.
says the alliances are revenue-based and the company doesnt
charge rent for using the Ebony store space. The company is
considering the idea of spinning off the household section
- bed linen, crystals, gift articles and furniture - into
a separate format. This will take at least one year.