Puma expanding India base, to open 35 more stores

Global sportswear brand Puma is looking to open 35 new stores in the coming one year to increase its footprint in the country. The brand that currently has 355 stores across 120 cities added 60 new ones in the last one year and are looking to launch 35 in tier I, II and III cities.

The brand, just 10 years old in India, a late entrant when compared to its competitors, has managed to hold on to its number one position in the sportswear category. According to Bjorn Gulden, CEO, Puma, India will be among the top five global markets for Puma.

Valued at around Rs 6,000 crore, the sportswear brand is seeing some stiff competition. Skechers, the US-based footwear and apparel company, which debuted in 2012, recently announced it will expand to tier-II and III cities and add 400 more exclusive stores to strengthen its India business. The German sportswear giant adidas is also looking to tap into the tier-II and III markets as a part of its long-term plan.

Apart from increasing the number of stores, Puma, whose 30 per cent sales happen through e-commerce platforms, is looking to invest and build its e-commerce platform to stay ahead in the game.

“We are making huge investments in technology to change our approach towards the market. We will invest heavily in building our e-commerce platform, as online is the future. Our focus is on running e-commerce platforms directly through our own website and through online market places. At present, 30 per cent of our total sale comes from our e-commerce platform. We are investing heavily on puma.com, and are working towards increasing the size of the catalogue on our website as well as ensuring a better supply chain,” said Debosmita Majumder, Head of Marketing Puma India.

While Majumder agrees that tier-I cities are their strong market, she points out that internet penetration and high levels awareness among consumers has made tier-II and III cities equally important.

“The internet and social media provides everyone with access to global content, and, therefore, consumers are seeking products available globally. Consumers in tier-II and III markets today are well educated about brands and the products they offer. We reach out to them through puma.com, and through our physical stores,” added Majumder.

Puma has been in the news recently for its new marketing exercise Suede Gully. The campaign, created by DDB Mudra to celebrate 50 years of the iconic Suede sneaker, which has been a symbol of street culture and hip-hop for over a decade, features eight rappers, 36 dancers, seven artists and countless creators.

Speaking about why they believe in creating good content and not arbitrary spending when it comes to marketing, Majumder said, “We believe that creating unique experiences and exciting content to engage with our consumers reaps far more benefit than just putting marketing budgets behind traditional marketing channels. Suede Gully is our effort to provide a platform for the youth and artists in our country which will help them express themselves in the form of art and music.”

Apart from leveraging the digital medium, Puma believes that creating experiences is the way to connect with the audience.

“We recently brought Virat Kohli on board as our global ambassador to help us get India moving towards a more active lifestyle. We have brought Disha Patani as our sportstyle and fitness expert for India. We believe that creating exciting experiences for consumers will also help develop a sports ecosystem in the country. From unveiling the official Arsenal kits in India, taking fans to experience Arsenal matches at the Emirates stadium, or opportunities to interact with sporting legends such as Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Boris Becker, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry – these experiences help engage with people in India. Activities like these not only help build the brand but also serve as inspiration to pursue sport in everyday life,” said Majumder.

Indian skipper Kohli who has, according to media reports, struck an eight-year deal with Puma worth about Rs 110 crore, also launched his athleisure brand One8 in collaboration with the brand.

Sporting brands also have strong sport associations. adidas was associated with the recently concluded U-17 FIFA World Cup and is also the official sports partner for FIFA World Cup to take place next year in Russia.

Speaking about their sports associations, Majumder said, “For building an active sporting community in India, there has to be a right combination of initiatives that target the grassroots level as well as help inspire people at every stage to pursue sport. We have hosted Ignite Your City runs to motivate people to take to running. We are also associated with the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and Tata Steel Kolkata 25k to propagate the sport. Last year, we globally launched the Do You movement aimed at encouraging women to follow their instincts and find their best self. This ignited a spark in the women’s segment for training and being themselves unapologetically. We were associated with the ISL as the official ball and boot partner for 2015, and were also the kit partner for ISL teams – Mumbai City FC, Delhi Dynamos FC and Kerala Blasters FC.”
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