Asics plans giant strides in “cutthroat” Indian market

India and South Asia, told Inside Retail.

The brand currently has 74 stores in the country, and there are plans to expand the network further.

“We have a strong pipeline and we want to open stores in more than 10-12 locations before the end of the year. We have seen a significant increase in shop footfall in the last few months which is greater than pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

Khurana explained that the brand’s sales are driven by the performance footwear and clothing sectors. 

With approximately 35 per cent of sales coming from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, Asics is also concentrating heavily on growing its retail base outside tier 1 regions.

“The sports industry is one of the most cutthroat in both India and the rest of the world. The Indian sporting goods market is a sizable business that offers a wide variety of athletic items, including footwear, workout gear, athleisure and sports gear,” he added.

Asics is also in the process of revamping its stores in line with the new global retail concept. The new retail concept intends to create unique shopping experiences with a strong focus on innovation, creativity, and sustainability.

The stores across the globe are following the concept which is inspired by the brand’s philosophy of ‘Sound Mind in a Sound Body’, which focuses on an all-encompassing spirit that inspires the athlete in every individual, affects the material choices, and guides the customer experience.

Wooing customers

When it comes to the Indian marketplace, Asics leverages an omnichannel approach, operating a franchise business model while also being present on online marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, Ajio, Myntra and Tata Cliq. 

Khurana mentioned that the shift to the digital medium has been quite pronounced in the country.

“In the next three years, we anticipate that digital channels will account for almost half of all business,” he noted.

Khurana is of the opinion that on- and offline work hand-in-hand as a result of technological advancements, and consumers are now hyper-connected. 

“They want to take advantage of the accessibility, diversity, and interaction of digital platforms as well as the offline convenience of receiving personalised support and handling physical products,” Khurana elaborated.

At Asics, almost 35 per cent of its total revenue comes from digital channels, which include e-commerce platforms and the brand’s direct to consumer (DTC) site.

Khurana feels that many large brands are pivoting to D2C at the same time that digitally native brands partner with distributors. 

“Taking steps to build a D2C business can allow brands to forge deeper relationships with customers, enabling them to gather data that helps with product development,” he stated.

The Indian marketplace

According to Khurana, India is a diverse marketplace, and even for a business veteran like him, each day is a learning experience.

He has noticed that although the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on business globally, despite challenging economic conditions, the sporting sector in India was able to bounce back with pre-Covid-19 levels of growth.

“One significant development is that businesses now have the chance to highlight experiences with value-added services, which can define and affect the consumer’s journey from decision-making to consumption,” he explained.

He feels social media’s widespread use in India is having an impact on consumer expectations and the products they choose.

“According to the Mintel Trend’s “Experience Is All,” consumer report, consumers want things to be “more than just products that generate deeper, meaningful experiences,” he said.

In his opinion, retail remains a priority, given the touch and feel of the product, especially in the shoe industry. 

“A fitness enthusiast would like to try on a pair of shoes before making a purchase,” Khurana noted.

He has observed that the country’s growing overarching wealth and changing lifestyles has resulted in a shift in the mindsets of consumers. More of them are becoming increasingly conscious about their wellness routines.

“We see a huge potential in the market given the consumer now being focused on health and fitness,” he noted.

The Asics factor

Recently, the brand made quite a splash by unveiling its Actibreeze 3D sandal, an innovative 3D printed sandal that is specifically designed to help the body and mind of a recovering athlete in the after performance phase.

According to Khurana, leveraging 3D printing for shoes brings with it a whole host of benefits, both in terms of optimising costs and maximising performance.

“Apart from making prototyping fast and flexible, 3D printing can enable complex lattice-like structures that would otherwise be impossible to manufacture, paving the way for custom lightweight fits built for springiness and speed,” he added.

Interestingly, Khurana revealed that the brand’s vision for this 3D future is moving closer to a world where a shoe can freely morph its form to fit the profile of the wearer.

In India, the brand has a dedicated experience zone called “Asics Foot Id” where runners can get a foot analysis done on their feet and running motion with help from the on-site staff.

“We can measure foot shapes, analyse the wearer’s running gait, and this helps our consumers ensure an injury-free running experience, enhanced comfort and higher performance,” he explained.

A bright future

According to Khurana, Asics is focused on scaling up local sourcing for footwear and apparel for both Indian and international markets. 

They have also been exporting products from India to other subsidiaries in the company. 

“We have begun selling a wider apparel range, which is a mix of both made-in-India and imported products, at our stores.”

Khurana wants to keep expanding the brand’s product portfolio by building on their “SportStyle” offerings while maintaining a strong focus on “Core Performance Sports”, which are tennis and cricket categories in the Indian market.

“For the upcoming year, digital will continue to be our main priority. In order to boost the overall contribution of business, we intend to further develop our brand’s dot-com channel. Our e-commerce partners have been essential during our digital journey, and we are committed to maintaining the growth momentum,” he concluded.

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