Mumbai: Aero Club, which owns the Woodland brand, will spend as much as Rs300 crore on buying outdoor footwear retail chains in Australia, Africa, China, the Far East and eastern Europe, funded by the likely sale of a 15% stake to private equity (PE) funds.
“These are lucrative markets with huge opportunities,” said Harkirat Singh, managing director and founder of Aero Club. In the next three years, each of these markets could rival the domestic business, he said.
China is an attractive market for brands as it has strong local consumption and is growing at a faster rate than India, while Australia is known for its outdoor, adventure lifestyle, with brands such as Quiksilver emerging from there.
“Woodland is known for its strong product focus with investments in design and manufacturing. It’s like Timberland, but cheaper,” said Saloni Nangia, senior vice-president, Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a retail consultancy firm.
The footwear chain, with a little over 300 stores in India, is in initial talks with Australian companies having a similar profile such as Colorado Group Ltd and Country Road Ltd.
“That (private equity) will be coming soon as we are getting feelers from different markets,” said Singh, who is willing to divest up to 15% in the company when the need arises as he looks at retail acquisitions costing Rs200-300 crore.
Woodland had a net profit of Rs65 crore and revenue of Rs600 crore in fiscal 2010. Currently, close to 30% of revenue is from exports to West Asia, South Africa, Australia, Canada and Singapore. Last September, the company set up an office in Hong Kong to make inroads into the China market.
The company began operations in the early 1950s as a boot manufacturer in Quebec, Canada. Singh, along with his father, also ran a boot manufacturing and export business in the US, Canada and Russia under Aero America, which it shut five years ago to focus on the domestic business.
The company wants to double sales in the next two-three years, with investments in manufacturing, production and retail, which will be funded by bank loans and internal accruals, Singh said. Woodland wants to open 40-50 stores annually, he said.