Facing zero sales, Reliance Brands pushes direct sales to rope in business

With several stores under lockdown and most of its products falling into the discretionary spend category, the country's biggest luxury retail player Reliance Brands Limited faced a zero sales scenario until it went into direct sales mode.

Through a blend of online events, video-guided tours and parties, and digital catalogs called "flipbooks", the company has seen post lockdown sales awaken.


On the back of thousands of Whatsapp messages, and at least 700 video calls, Reliance Brands sold close to 12,000 products across brands to 3400 customers across 38 cities, RBL officials say, with at least 75 transactions valued at over Rs 1 Lakh. "Small joys and little rewards that gratify customers are the drivers," says Deval Shah Reliance Brands Vice President.

RBL operates over 40 brand partnerships including Tiffany & Co, Armani Exchange, Brooks Brothers, Bottega Veneta, Coach, Diesel, Dune, Emporio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Giorgio Armani, Hamleys, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Mothercare, Muji, Paul & Shark, Steve Madden, Superdry, and Scotch & Soda.

Of those, top brands driving sales for RBL after the lockdown are in order of popularity are Mothercare, Superdry, Canali, Tiffany & Co, The White Crow, Brooks Brothers, Bottega Veneta, Armani Exchange, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Hamleys. RBL today operates 795 doors split into 450 mono-brand stores and 345 shop-in-shops in India.

"Mothercare filled the gap in serving the needs of families with new-borns with essentials that they were struggling to find during lockdown," said Deval Shah Vice President at RBL. Other top-selling categories include gifts, bags and purses, sporting and casual lounge-wear and shoes. Shah says that apart from the digital blasts and video store-shopping, some partner-brands also conducted novel events. "Michael Kors conducted an auction via video conferencing, wherein clients placed bids on their favourite products, put together on a digital catalogue," he says.

The event saw 66 customers attend with a presentation of 20 products, of which all sold. Fine jewellery and accessories company, Tiffany& Co. which has gone live online first in India has also serviced requests for birthday and anniversary gifts and rings for couples whose weddings have been pushed back due to the lockdown.

Other events included an exclusive video conference party for customers by Diesel while Giorgio Armani's former lead stylist and now head training Andrea Perulli walked an exclusive set of customers through new collections –– all through a video call, of course.

Shah states the newer marketing idea such as whatsapp calls and video direct selling are getting easier to clear with foreign partners who may have been more conservative in a pre-epidemic world. Noticeable trends include doubling of transaction values, and a return to confidence in brands that consumers trust, especially when shopping Online, Shah adds.

How does the distribution piece work ? RBL delivers the same or next day in cities where they have stores and uses couriers where they don't have a presence.

Payal S Kanwar, Director General, Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI) which has members that include Hermes, LVMH, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, and more, says that there's a concerted effort to ensure that customers get the same experiences offline as they would in brick and mortar stores. "So high end brands are focusing on customer experience, personalisation, delivery and the consolidation of customer base which means using the CRM smartly: identifying groups – one time shoppers, regular shoppers," Kanwar said.

Mumbai-based delivery companies have tied up with high-end malls to ensure premium delivery, and on the digital front, companies are also working with whatsapp Business Application Program Interfaces to improve customer satisfaction.

What's the big challenge for direct sales and will it impact traditional sales foe the future? "We have to note that we are in the business of discretionary spend so this won't impact bricks n mortar sales but touch and feel is the challenge," Shah says. "However, it may be habit-forming in a post-covid world, because it saves time."

Source : Business Standard

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