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The contrarian retailer

Noel Tata’s astute business sense and a unique retail strategy have enabled Trent to achieve robust growth, despite fluctuating demand

Soumik Kar

The journey of a private-label retailer is inherently more complex than that of a multi-brand retailer,” says Noel Tata contemplatively, as he sips some coffee. “But,” he continues, “we believe we have created a very efficient organisation that is capable of supporting a fast growth rate.” We are seated in a conference room at Trent House in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex. Dressed in a blue pin-striped shirt and black trousers, the reclusive Tata, 61, has made time for an exclusive chat with Outlook Business.

His observation perhaps best encapsulates retail major Trent’s two-decade journey in India. A two-pronged strategy — of creating an enviable list of private labels and adopting a measured store expansion plan — has done well for the company, which operates the departmental store Westside, bookstore chain Landmark and hypermarket chain Star Bazaar in a 50:50 joint venture with British retailer Tesco. It also has 49:51 joint venture with Spanish retail firm Inditex to run Zara and Massimo Dutti stores in the country (See: Branding it right).

Chaired by Tata, the company today is a key business vertical in the Tata group. Its FY18 net profit grew by 16.78% to Rs.1.09 billion while sales jumped by 19.04% to Rs.21.57 billion. Net sales grew at CAGR of 16.51% in the past three years and net profit increased at a CAGR of 52.85% (See: Selling out fast). Over the past year, Trent’s stock has outperformed the Nifty Consumption Index by 6%.

Having perfected its business with a limited number of stores, the company has now traded its conservative growth model for a rapid expansion route. Over the past two years, it has already opened about 30 Westside stores — compared to 95 stores from 1998 to 2016 — and launched a new fast fashion vertical, Zudio, with seven stores. They have also begun expanding into Tier II and III towns and cities such as Palakkad, Jamshedpur and Dimapur and have a robust expansion plan in place for the next 10 years with an annual capital expenditure of about Rs.1.5 billion. Westside, which brings in the lion&rsquo

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