British luxury shoemaker Harrys to open stores in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore

British luxury shoemaker Harrys of London, which shot into fame in 2002 when 30 Hollywood celebrities, including John Travolta and Denzel Washington, wore its shoes to the Oscars, plans to enter India early next year.

It plans to open a store each in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in the first phase, an official said.
"The reason why we choose India is related to culture, people and context. We usually look at customers more than we look at markets," Giuseppe Bonfiglio, CEO of Harrys of London, said.
He said the decision to enter the country is "more connected to relation than it is to a rational, although the 1% luxury consumer from 1.3 billion people is 13 million high net worth individuals".

Harrys of London already has several Indian customers who they serve in the UK and Middle East stores.

Several top luxury brands including Hermes, Montblanc, Bottega Veneta and Salvatore Ferragamo have already entered the country where consulting firm Technopak expects the luxury market to grow two-and-ahalf times its current size to $6.8 billion, or about Rs 40,000 crore by 2015.

Founded in 2001, Harrys of London sells shoes for anywhere between £295 and £2,415 (Rs 26,000 and Rs lakh) per pair. The company is majority owned by Atelier Fund, a division of world's third largest luxury house Richemont Group. The British firm is now scouting for a partner who can bring local expertise.

Franchise India, a retail solution provider, is helping it find a partner and get regulatory clearances. Franchise India has helped expansion of several multinationals including Chicago Pizza, San Churro Amore Gourmet and Gelato in the country.

"India is in contrast to other markets such as the UK and the US where luxury market is driven by women shoppers. In India, men control more than 65% of the market and bags and shoes form a large part of it," Gaurav Marya, chairman of Franchise India, said.

Harrys of London's Indian ambition comes at a time when consumers across income groups have become more cautious about spending due to a weakening economy, although consumer slowdown is less pronounced in the luxury segment.

But the shoemaker is confident. "Because we are a young high quality brand, we have the flexibility that other larger brands/conglomerate don't have," Bonfiglio said, adding that products that have a high value for money ratio will always enjoy an advantage, particularly during crisis time.

The luxury management veteran who joined Harrys of London in 2009 was with Lambertson Truex where he managed the sale of the company to Tiffany & Co. Harrys of London currently sells in over 20 countries. Besides flagship stores, it's sold at men's luxury department stores and speciality retail shops.

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