Bangalore: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Metro Shoes Ltd is accelerating the pace at which it’s opening stores because retail space rentals are lower and the company seeks to capture a bigger share of India’s fast-growing footwear market.

The Mumbai-based footwear retailer plans to more than double the number of its outlets to 421 by March 2015 from 161 stores currently.

“Because of the (weak) market sentiment, we are getting good retail space at lower prices, especially in tier II cities such as Patiala, Nagpur, Ranchi and Patna. We are getting good deals," executive director Farah Malik Bhanji said in an interview.

The company, which sold a 15% stake to investor Jhunjhunwala in 2007, will spend 60-70 lakh to open a store, or 156-182 crore overall, on furniture and stock over the next three years, Bhanji said. Metro Shoes, a debt-free company, will fund its expansion through accumulated profits at least till the next year.

Metro doesn’t have any immediate plans for a public issue. “It’s a little premature (to talk about an IPO)," Bhanji said. “We’d probably be able to answer that in a year’s time."

The company, which operates Metro, Mochi and MSL footwear stores, was started in 1977 by entrepreneur Rafique Malik, who is the managing director. Bhanji is his daughter.

Metro expects to nearly double its sales to 1,095 crore by 2014-15 from 547 crore last year.

“It’s been a challenging year, (but) we’ve maintained same-store sales growth at 10%," Bhanji said. “We haven’t seen the downward trend long enough to cut back on any costs, whether it is advertising or store openings."

The Indian footwear industry, dominated by the likes of Bata India Ltd and Liberty Shoes Ltd, is valued at 22,000 crore, according to a 2012 report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. The market is growing at an annual average of about 15% and will likely be worth as much as 38,700 crore by 2015, the report said.

Footwear is one of the more organized sectors in retail in India with modern trade accounting for about 40% of the overall market, said Ankur Bisen, vice-president of retail at Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a consultant.

“This year, sales of aspirational footwear products have been subdued as discretionary spending has slowed, but need-based footwear like chappals, or working shoes, or school shoes have grown steadily. And companies like Metro, Bata and Liberty get a large chunk of their sales from mass products like those," Bisen said.

Bhanji said that the company’s sales will grow over 25% to 687 crore in the year to 31 March, helped by strong demand for men’s footwear.

“We’ve seen faster growth in men’s footwear this year compared with women’s. In ladies (footwear), we haven’t seen a major change in consumption patterns," she said. “However, the way men are buying footwear has definitely changed. I would never have thought that I’d be selling orange men’s shoes, lime green men’s shoes—these were unheard of a few years ago."

Men’s shoes account for nearly 60% of Metro’s sales, while women’s footwear contributes up to 36%; children’s shoes account for the rest.