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$100 million Brazilian firm Grupo Priority brings premium shoe brand to India

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-09-2017 Soumya Gupta

Mumbai: Brazilian shoe-maker Grupo Priority has brought its flagship men’s shoe brand West Coast to India in a tie-up with the distribution arm of footwear retailer Metro Shoes Ltd, a company executive said.

The brand was soft-launched in May and is now available in 122 department stores in the country including the top six metros and tier 2 and tier 3 cities like Baroda, Siliguri, Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam, said Eduardo Schefer, director of operations at Grupo Priority.

The firm tied up with Metmill Footwear Pvt Ltd, a unit of Metro Shoes Ltd, a shoe retail chain and private label. The brand has set up shop-in-shops—exclusive spaces in multi-brand retail store dedicated to a single brand—in retail stores including Shoppers Stop Ltd and Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd. The firm is also in talks to retail West Coast shoes on either Myntra or Jabong, the fashion retail arms of e-commerce marketplace Flipkart. 

West Coast was founded by family-run Grupo Priority in 1987 as a flip-flop brand in Brazil. 

“When we started, we wanted more modern, colourful shoes for the modern professional..,” said Paulo Schefer, founder of Grupo Priority and West Coast shoes. “The ‘casual Friday’ was very strong in Brazil, where people looked for shoes they could wear to work and head straight out into ‘happy hour’ with their friends,” he said. “One of the changes is that India is seeing the same transition, from more black/brown type shoes to more colourful, casual shoes for work,” he said. 

West Coast shoes brand is focusing on the premium casual men’s shoes segment. “When we did the research, (we saw) there is a space for a pure casual shoe market in India,” said Silton Freire, export manager at Grupo Priority. “We are rustic, we are casual, we do not make formal shoes.” 

West Coast shoes are primarily leather shoes with some canvas ones as well, and include flip-flops, slip-ons and lace shoes for men. The products start at Rs2,000-3,000 for the flip flops and at Rs4,000-6,500 for shoes. 

“We are in the premium space, when you look at brands like Aldo and Steve Madden,” said Nirav Shah, CEO of Metmill Footwear. His father Sunil Shah is the managing director of Metro Shoes.

“We are aiming to be in 150 stores by the end of this (calendar) year, but we will consider standalone retail stores only perhaps after three years,” he said. 

The two firms are co-investing in India, where Grupo Priority has not set up an entity yet. The firms declined to share the investment they have made in India, but it takes around $1 million to set up a presence in 50 stores in the top six metros in India, according to Shah. 

Existing premium brands in India’s shoe market have also been looking to cater to the premium casual segment in India. In January this year, Crocs India Pvt. Ltd said it will rely on casual footwear for its next phase of growth with a range priced between Rs1,500 and Rs7,000, Mint reported on 30 January. 

India’s footwear market is worth Rs55,300 crore and grew 16% in calendar year 2016, according to consumer market research firm Euromonitor. The market is dominated by Bata India Ltd, which has a 5% share by sales value, Euromonitor said. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7% to reach Rs77,800 crore by 2021, a Euromonitor report published in April 2017 said. 

“The key drivers of growth will be aspirational consumers from smaller third- and fourth-tier cities as more branded footwear becomes accessible to them thanks to store-based expansion and Internet retailing,” the report said.

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