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Westside to open its first women’s-only stores in New Delhi

Westside to open its first women’s-only stores in New Delhi

Mumbai: Westside, the department store format of Trent Ltd, will open its first women’s-only stores in New Delhi soon followed by children’s-only stores in a bid to grow faster with minimum space amid sky rocketing retail rentals. These stores will occupy less space than the chain’s large department stores.

The new formats will be in addition to the franchised stores the company launched this year.

Westside’s smaller speciality stores come in the wake of similar efforts by other retailers: department store chain Shoppers’ Stop Ltd launched its women’s-only stores, Arcilia, and hypermarket chain HyperCity Retail (India) Ltd and India’s largest listed retailer Pantaloon Retail India Ltd have launched smaller neighbourhood convenience stores.

“We feel it is important to ensure that Westside is available where people want it," said Neeti Chopra, head of marketing at Westside. “People want stores close by so they can visit easily." Trent is part of the Tata group.

Real estate costs have ballooned, holding back expansion plans for many retailers. Prices for commercial space in Indian cities such as Mumbai and Delhi rival those in Manhattan in New York. The rush for retail space has prompted developers such as Unitech Ltd, India’s second largest listed real estate player, to spend some Rs20,000 crore in the next few years in setting up retail spaces.

Westside, currently a 26- store chain, will be able to open only eight or nine company-operated stores, short of the targeted 10-11 this year, because of delays in getting retail space ready. The company will also look to open 10-12 women’s, children’s and franchisee stores every year, starting nest year.

“Trying new formats is a positive move from the company because, so far, the company has expanded more conservatively than others in the retail space," Girish Solanki, a retail analyst with Angel Broking Ltd said. “They can only open a few large stores themselves. So, this helps them grow faster."

Westside, which started in 1998, has 26 stores while rival Pantaloon, Pantaloon Retail’s eponymous department store chain, has 35 stores (it launched in 1997).

“In developed markets, we are seeing a move from department stores to specialty stores," said Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak Advisors, a Delhi-based retail consulting company. “But may be they need to grow in their own core business before they try other things."

Westside’s original format stores sell a range of goods, including garments, cosmetics to home furnishings. While the company will operate stores in big cities, it will franchise stores in smaller cities such as Dhanbad, Ranchi and Kochi, Chopra said.

The women’s store will have Western and Indian clothes, accessories and footwear. Women’s wear accounts for 33% of the apparel market, according to industry estimates. Raymond’s has set up the ColorPlus Woman and Park Avenue Woman retail chains recently in an effort to tap this market.

Trend ended the three months to September with revenues of Rs119.49 crore and a net profit of Rs9.13 crore. Apart from running Westside, the company runs a supermarket chain called Star Bazaar and a bookstore chain called Landmark. Shares of Trent closed at Rs573.10 each on BSE on Thursday. The shares traded at a 52-week high of Rs906.13 each on 29 December 2006.

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