French luxury brand Louis Vuitton is in talks to open more stores in India, including one in a mall here. It is likely the new stores will be larger than existing ones.
“People (in India) have the knowledge of what quality stands for, but (the market) is still at the beginning, in terms of development. So, we see it as a baby that we have to grow,” said Roberto Eggs, president, Louis Vuitton Europe. Eggs was here to commemorate of a decade of the 159-year-old brand’s foray into India, as well as to meet potential real estate partners.
Louis Vuitton was one of the first major luxury players to enter the market in India, opening a store here in 2003. Currently, it has five stores in India, including two in Mumbai and one each in Bangalore and Chennai. While it does not give out numbers, the brand is reported to have enjoyed double-digit growth and profits in the last ten years. Abhay Gupta, chief executive of consultancy firm, says the brand has been far-sighted in that it hasn’t diluted its standards of location choice and store service.
The reasons for cautious expansion also include a dearth of suitable real estate. Eggs said the retail market was still working primarily out of malls and hotels. “India does not have street retail that is ready for luxury. It will come in the future. But right now, it is concentrated in malls.” It was a challenge to choose the right projects and sense how serious developers were, he added.
The predicament is shared by others, too, says Gulam Zia, executive director, advisory (retail and hospitality), Knight Frank India. “Big luxury players have to be choosy because high-end malls have not fared uniformly well. If the mix of stores includes some mid-level brands, high footfalls may not often result in conversions.”
In 2010, Louis Vuitton had shut its store in The Oberoi, Delhi, its first in the country, indicating a desire to move to retail locations outside hotels. It later shifted to luxury mall DLF Emporio. Last year, the brand opened a high-street boutique on Khader Nawaz Khan Road in Chennai.
While the brand says it sees large potential for jewellery and shoes, store sizes are a drag. Once it has enhanced spaces, it will consider introducing the exclusive Haute Maroquinerie service in India, which allows clients to customise bags. Currently, the service is available in only 15 global stores.