Home is where the mart is
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What keeps luxury brands away from opening stores in Punjab, Noida or West Delhi?
Last week, Gucci opened the doors to its fifth store in India — at the snazzy Oberoi, Gurgaon. A lavish party with the high and mighty of Delhi's fashion scene, a few minor Bollywood stars, flowing champagne and cute, bite-sized hors d'oeuvres accessorised the scene. Patrizio di Marco, Gucci's President and CEO played the warm Italian host with Delhi socialite Tanisha Mohan as co-hostess. The store, like Gucci stores anywhere in the world, emboldened the brand's DNA — in its display, selection of products, and bespoke section. Store attendants used gloves to familiarise guests with products — a nice, fussy ritual in luxury.
Unforgettably, this exclusivity owed much of its grace to the setting — The Oberoi Gurgaon, which offers a "luxury environment" on first sight. The store overlooks the hotel's large, subtly-lit up water body, from where you can see the buzzing coffee shop across. Walk into the lobby and a row of other luxury stores brandish promise, Jimmy Choo and Canali among them. Now let's ask: why wouldn't these stores also work in Ludhiana where a sizeable percentage of India's luxury buyers live? Or in a five star hotel in west Delhi — an area lush with the wealthy who give many brands substantial business? If Punjab keeps the cash registers of brands ringing, why doesn't the state have a single luxury store yet? Louis Vuitton — also known for the logo fever it infected ostentatious Indians with — opened a store in Chennai this year but not in Punjab where logos themselves are luxury. Why haven't most brands reached Pune despite its Lavasa and Yoo Pune, even though Hermes has a boutique there?
Contradictions dot the debate — even as different brands weigh the issue from varying dimensions. It's an interesting map if you plot it with arguments that elude a clinching definition of the "luxury environment in India". Formally, such spaces are few — the UB Mall in Bangalore, the Palladium in Lower Parel Mumbai, Taj and Oberoi Hotels in Mumbai and Delhi and India's only luxury mall, The DLF Emporio, in Delhi. There are dozens of dazzling, new five star hotels in the country, others are coming up at exotic holiday destinations — great places to sell — but luxury brands continue to stick to some Indian metros (and airports), or very selective premises to sell their wares.