Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Peter England, who?

The other day I met a friend who holds the distributing rights for one of India's very well-known garment brand Peter England. On the occasion of an alumni meet, he had set up a display kiosk for Peter England ELITE at Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India.

Talking about brands and branding strategy, in response to a rather skeptical remark regarding the fate of ELITE by one of our friends, he retorted, "Do you know how much it takes to create a new brand in the market? Rs500 crores!"

I agree. You would also agree. However, it isn't just about money. Or if marketing managers think that branding is just an easy way of minting money, then brands are doomed and consequently, companies too.

Peter England has been around for many years now, perhaps at least a decade. What is Peter England? One would say an inexpensive and smart formal/office wear brand for young male executives. Then what's Peter England ELITE? Well, it is likely to be expensive formal/office wear brand for young male executives.

Okay, so what is Peter England after launching Peter England ELITE? It is expensive and smart and inexpensive formal/office wear for young male executives! Add to the confusion; ELITE is just one of the latest extensions of the brand. Read the story below. This little article published in THE HINDU is worth reading:

Aditya Birla Nuvo’s Peter England Fashions and Retail Ltd is to launch Peter England family stores housing men’s, women’s and kids’ wear and accessories by mid-next year, said Mr Aloke Malik, President.

“The work for the stores is in progress and we might finalise something by December. We will open a limited number of large format mid-value stores of 10,000 – 15,000 sq. ft. and want to leverage the equity of Peter England,” he said.

The store is targeted at age-band of zero to 35 years and will house the company’s brands in segments where they have a manufacturing facility. For kids’ wear, it might have to outsource the garments, he added.

“We have an aggressive retail expansion plan and aim to grow in quality as well as additional stores,” said Mr Vikram Rao, Business Director, Textiles & Apparels.

Peter England forayed into the premium and sub-premium segment of shirts, with Peter England Elite, targeted at young office goers.

Aggressive ad campaigns are in the loop to promote this new range through outdoor media, print, on ground methods and the Internet, said Mr Venkataramani K, Brand Director, Peter England. Ranging from Rs 995 to Rs 1,395, the shirts and trousers of Peter England will be available in its flagship and select retail outlets. The new brand is concentrating on the mid-priced aspiring customer.

The first phase of Peter England Elite is being launched in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Nagpur, while countrywide distribution will be in place by next 6-8 months.

The company garnered revenues of Rs 270 crore in the current fiscal and plans to create a Rs 500-crore Peter England brand within the next 3-4 years, said Mr Malik.

Fantastic! What grand plans! Make a Rs270 crore brand into Rs500 brand in 4 years. Wow! How? Leveraging the equity of Peter England... And how is that? Have a look at what the messages include: 1. Aggressive retail expansion 2. Grow in quality 3. Additional stores 4. Peter England family stores housing men’s, women’s and kids’ wear and accessories 5. The store is targeted at age-band of zero to 35 years and will house the company’s brands in segments where they have a manufacturing facility 6. For kids' wear, it might outsource the garments...

Helloooooo! It's unbelievable. Whoever asked the marketing managers and brand managers to meddle with Peter England... Ask a common male office-goer about Peter England and he might tell you what it is - inexpensive and smart formal/office wear brand for young male executives. After all the strategy given in the article, what will Peter England be? A family retail store with expensive/ inexpensive, economy/sub-premium/premium formal/office wear for young male office goers, with some garments for women and with some garments for kids and with some accessories also! Imagine! How creative and multi-faceted!

It's an amazing story of how a brand created with so much focus and such clear definition over almost a decade is now being torn apart left, right and center. Excuse? Leveraging the equity! Make it Rs500 crore brand! Sir (Management/CEO at Madura Garments), you might want to do anything with it but Peter England's gonna mean the same thing as it has meant to consumers. If you force a change, do so at your peril. Short-term you might raise consumer's interest and curiosity and perhaps your sales, medium-term or long-term you are gonna kill what the brand has so strongly stood for and lose your ground as well as leadership to more focussed and opportunistic competitors in a growing market. Let Peter England be what it is. You want to capture other segments, do so by launching a new brand or wait till it is an opportune time to launch something new. Meanwhile stay with Peter England (the way it has always been), Allen Solly, Van Heusen and Louise Philippe and enjoy the fruits.