Apart from working towards a bullish revenue target, Max Fashion India hopes to shed its long-standing ‘value for money’ image and be known instead as a ‘fashion destination’. Shital Mehta, the company’s CEO, speaks to Shinmin Bali about Max’s expansion plans, its omnichannel strategy and the insignificance of ‘end of season sales’. Edited excerpts:
What are the growth and expansion plans of Max?
This year, we are likely to clock Rs 3,600 crore in revenue. We are not a retailer or aggregator store alone. We are a fashion brand present across every possible segment, whether it is value or premium, Indian or western wear, men or women.
We would continue to penetrate even the micro markets of the top 10 cities, because we are very strong there. Given our positioning, we can go further into the smaller catchment areas in cities like Bengaluru or Hyderabad. For example, in Bengaluru, we have 27 stores, and we could add another five to 10 stores in the next two to three years. We are also keen on expanding in the East, North, West and Central India, where we have not fully exploited the market potential. Half of our business comes from the South.
How does Max differentiate itself among other players?
Max is the only brand in India that operates on an eight-season calendar, that is, almost 45 days per season. We turn our stock so rapidly that, in around six weeks, our store collection changes completely. We are aiming to create more than 20,000 new designs per year. Currently, no other brand in the Indian market, domestic or international, goes beyond 10,000 designs per year. Ours is a heady cocktail of variety, freshness and trend sensibilities — that we bring in from our experience in international markets — accessibility and, finally, affordable pricing. That is the combination to create value fashion. Just because others sell at affordable prices, doesn’t mean they stand for ‘value fashion’; it only means they are playing a pricing game.
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How important is the digital ecosystem for Max?
We do not sell on any of the marketplaces, but have built our own site and app. At the moment, the app has four million downloads. It was launched 14 months ago. Our online model is currently growing at 60%. Like a lot of large global players, we have gone omnichannel as well, with services like Click and Collect. The Dubai market has one of our very tech-savvy stores, which has a Magic Mirror, QR-code-enabled shopping, etc. We plan to bring that to India.
There is a lot of focus on making sure we are more of an ‘anytime, anywhere’ brand. Families are our core consumers, but we have put in effort in the last two years towards connecting with the millennials. They want the latest fashion made available in the most accessible manner. In serving them, we are a value fashion brand with a fast fashion mindset.
But wouldn’t that be reinforcing the ‘value’ image?
We hate being called a value player. Our past was only about ‘value’. Max is for consumers who seek value, but are fashion forward. In the time to come, you will see a lot of focus on strategic brand communication and establishing Max as a brand which has a certain stature. We also want to strengthen our brand communication.
What about your omnichannel strategy? How is it faring?
Around 15% of all our online orders are through Click and Collect. Likewise, we are seeing 10-15% of Return to Store happening. What we are also pushing for is online shopping from within the store — endless aisles — where one purchases within the store and it’s delivered to you. Click and Collect and Return to Store have been rolled out across India. Endless aisles has been rolled out in five stores in Bengaluru and will be extended to other cities soon.
How important are sale periods for Max?
Max is, perhaps, the only player for which end of season sales (EOSS) are almost insignificant. Almost 75% of what we sell is sold on full price. We do not mark up and then bring the price down or hand out vouchers. For us, EOSS is a ritual. Our dream is to not have EOSS at Max at all.