C&J Clarks International plans to bring standalone showrooms to 100 in 5 years

British shoe retailer C&J Clarks International plans to increase the number of standalone stores in India four fold in five years to reach 100, its CEO Melissa Potter says.

"We consider India to be a very important future market for us. While our UK and North America businesses are expected to grow at single digit, we expect India to grow in double digits," Potter told ET.

She expects between 20 per cent-25 per cent of Clarks' global sales to come out of India and China over the next ten years. Clarks operates more than 1,400 stores in almost three-dozen countries with annual revenues of more than $2.2 billion.

"When I joined the company 25 years ago we had 85 per cent sales from the UK and currently it is 50 per cent, so we have been on the journey," said Potter who started as an intern at the company right after the college and rose through the ranks to become its chief executive in 2010.

In India, Clarks operates through Clarks Future Footwear Ltd, an equal joint venture the Future Group. Potter said the brand will continue to operate a joint venture with its Indian partner. Earlier this year, India allowed single brand retailers to fully own local subsidiaries in the country.

"It's a long term joint venture... it's a marriage and not a flirtation," Potter said in an interview in New Delhi last week. "We studied the Indian market for two years before we invested here and we realized that it is important to have a partner here," she added.

Potter said Clarks discovered some interesting facts on the Indian market such as men's shoes constituted about 70 per cent of the total market here. "Our study showed the value of the men's footwear market is bigger than the women's footwear market and that is very unusual. In most of the market it's the other way round," she said.

At present, the ratio is tilting towards women as ladies buy almost 55 per cent of Clarks shoes in India, up from about 40 per cent two years ago. Currently Clarks is also testing electronic commerce as well as a franchisee option to boost sales in India. The company recently opened its first franchisee store in Guwahati.

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