India is one of the fastest growing retail markets in the world : Tomoyasu Ito, Representative Director, President and Corporate Officer, Wacoal Corp

The brand is relying heavily on experiential as part of its expansion plan in India.


Wacoal Corp, which established its base in India few years back, is scripting a new success story in retail. 

This Japan headquartered lingerie brand intends to launch 15 stores in 2019, 23 stores in 2020, 30 through shop in shop model, and aims to have 150 brick and mortar stores in the country by 2021. It also plans to invest Rs one billion over the next three years in India with a big focus on experiential spends.

In an interview with BW Applause and, Tomoyasu Ito, Representative Director, President and Corporate Officer of Wacoal Corp spoke about the brands India strategy, the innovation which is helping it stay ahead of competition and its big focus on experiential.


How has been the journey of the brand in India and globally?

Established in 1947, the founder while serving during World War at Imphal in India, realized the importance of introducing comfort as an important factor in women’s clothing. Post the war with more women taking up roles and duties beyond being housewives, they started wearing western wear and the need for lingerie started increasing.  The founder wanted all women to feel beautiful about themselves. Over the years, Wacoal translated to become the no.1 brand in Japan with operations in 70 countries. 

Founded in the Far East of Japan, Wacoal has built no.1 position in every country we have entered. Going westward with the neighbouring countries Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Southeast Asia, the USA and Europe. 

India is one of the fastest growing retail markets in the world with 1.3 billion people. Now it seems to be the right opportunity for us to become No. 1 in India, which is the most west in Asia with all its fullness. Wacoal's mission is "to contribute to society by helping women express their beauty". Being able to help 600 million women in India express their beauty is crucial to Wacoal’s mission globally.

You have been in India for quite a few years, how have you seen the lingerie market evolving in India and according to you what is the current positioning of India in the global business radar?

The upper middle class is growing rapidly with GDP growth of over 7% annually followed by an increase in disposable income, this is growing faster than GDP growth. While actual consumption is price-conscious, purchase behaviour for premium and international new added value is also increasing, and women's social advancement is rapidly advancing. We believe this market change will accelerate in the next 10 years, and we see it as a great opportunity for Wacoal's market expansion.

How is Wacoal creating a niche for itself in the already established Indian market making itself relevant to the Indian consumers?

It’s been 4 years since the brand launch in India.Wacoal took the time to understand the consumer requirements in India - fits, quality and sizes are extremely varied, and that launching products in American sizes wouldn’t address their concerns.  Research was heavily emphasized upon - 40,000 women measurements were studied and researched upon to enhance the comfort factor. Now Wacoal has various products of different fits for women. The rate of repeat customers is high.

The brand has been constantly re-engineering/ innovating it to keep itself relevant to the new-age audiences. Please elaborate upon the innovations that you have recently introduced.

"Fit & Comfort" on wearing the product is considered to be the biggest USP of our brand as this isa product that every woman must wear in her daily life. Wacoal has its own manufacturing units all over the world where we produce over 80% of our designs. We achieve high quality and high performance with this balanced mix of our own production units and research undertaken by Wacoal’s Human Science Research Centre. This is our biggest strength that differentiates us from other brands.Instead of pursuing the glamorous appearance and sexiness, we pursue excellent supportability with unique materials and designs based on the research and development. 

We buy the best sellers from Wacoal Group present in each country which best suits the Indian market. We are also beginning to develop exclusive merchandise for the Indian market and plan to expand this in the coming years.

Throw some light on the expansion and marketing plans for the coming years in India.

Currently, we have 12 stores in India, however, intend to launch additional 15 stores in 2019, 23 stores in 2020, 30 through shop in shop model, and aim to have 150 brick and mortar stores in the country by 2021. 

In addition to setting up more stores in the existing markets i.e. Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata, Wacoal plans on aggressively focusing on 10 top cities taking advantage of existing operation network in all 4 regions such as West (Mumbai), North (Delhi), South (Chennai) and East (Kolkata). The brand will be foraying into to tier 1 and tier 2 regions across 30 cities including Nashik, Rajkot, Allahabad, Nagpur and Indore.

We are currently present on four e-commerce platforms, Myntra, Jabong, Tata Cliq and our own website, but sales are insignificant/minor/inconsequential. We plan to strengthen our presence on these platforms first before we move to other platforms. 

In fiscal year 2019, where the number of stores is fairly small, our promotional campaigns are centered around the opening areas of our stores. This is done through mall advertising, press ads in regional newspapers and outdoor advertising. By 2020 we plan to run nationwide advertisements which include brand ambassadors, TV commercials and an extensive PR campaign. At the same time, we will also promote social media and other digital platforms.

How much are you planning to invest in India to aid the expansion plans?

Over the course of three years 2019 to 2021, we plan to invest INR 1 billion (US $ 15 million). 

By when are you aiming to be profitable in India?

We plan to achieve 25 million USD is revenue target for 3 years and 100 million USD is revenue target for 10 years.

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