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New Balance India return

New Balance India is to make a comeback – and says it aims to open about 50 stores within the next few years.

The US sports shoes brand’s first foray into India was in the early 2000s, but it shut its shops after a few years. Now its VP for Asia Pacific Darren Tucker says it plans outlets across shopping malls and high streets in Delhi, National Capital Region (NCR), Mumbai and Bengaluru.

“We were ahead of time,” says Tucker. “We did not have such a wide brand presence globally then, and the retailing experience was poor. Now, the market looks more mature.”

Its first store this time around opened yesterday – an 1100 sqft (102 sqm) New Balance Athletic Shoes standalone outlet at DLF Mall of India in Noida, near New Delhi. The company has a distribution agreement with The Major Brands Group in Mumbai for retailing New Balance products in India.

“It’s not about the number of stores,” says Tucker. “We would prefer to have a profitable retail presence and grow at a relatively slower pace this time.

“All our global competitors are here. The market is built. We know our competitors, and that’s an advantage.”

With an average selling price of Rs.7000 (US$105) for shoes, New Balance will be a premium offering. Tucker says apparel is a promising segment, so lifestyle will be a focus area. The company has also tied up with online retailer Jabong for e-etailing, and is negotiating with global partner Amazon for the Indian market.

“Considering the growth of eCommerce in India, that’s a must,” says Tucker. The company will continue to leverage its global marketing properties across sports and athletics, and plans to develop local properties. “For India, it’s going to be cricket first.”

At the moment, the sports shoe and apparel market in India is dominated by Adidas, Nike, Puma and Reebok. Japan’s Asics Corp. opened its first standalone store in Delhi last July.

A report by Images F&R Research estimates India’s active sportswear market at Rs.6000 crore, growing at 13 per cent a year.

New Balance, which reported $3.3 billion in sales worldwide in 2014, was founded in 1906 by British immigrant William J. Riley to sell arch supports to police officers and waiters. The company was bought by Jim Davis, the son of a Greek immigrant, in 1972 and from its base in Boston now sells athletic shoes, apparel and accessories for men, women and children across 5000 outlets worldwide under brands such as Aravon, Brine, Dunham, PF Flyers and Warrior Sports.

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