Monday, May 30, 2011

Koutons : 50% + 40% Off

Brand : Koutons
Company : Koutons Retail India Ltd

Brand Analysis Count : # 483

Koutons is a brand story which has gone sour. This 1000 crore corporate brand is now facing the worst period of its existence- facing mounting debt and bad press regarding the financial position and the stock price moving southward. 

Koutons , the brand owned by Koutons Retail India Ltd was born in 1991. The original name of the company was Charlie Creations which was later rechristened as Koutons. Koutons is both the corporate brand and an individual brand . The company has a range of readymades with the brand name Koutons. Along with it , the company also has other brands of clothings like Charlie Outlaw, Le Femme etc. The current post focuses more on the individual brand.

Koutons Retail is a classic entrepreneurial story. The company was founded by Mr. DPS Kohli. Mr Kohli and his family owned a television manufacturing business which was destroyed during a riot. Mr. Kohli  had to suffer huge financial losses from that even and had to work as an insurance surveyor for long . Later he ventured into the retail textile business.
Koutons grew really fast. The company became India's largest retail apparel chain in a span of 10 years . In 2009, the company had around 1400 Exclusive Brand Outlets (EBO) making it the largest apparel chain. The company had a turnover of around Rs 1000 crore in 2008-2009.

Koutons was a brand built on a very unique strategy - deep discounting. Deep discounting is a pricing strategy where the brand offers huge  ( often mind-blowing) discounts on an unusually high MRP ( Maximum Retail Price) . So the consumers are attracted towards the product seeing the huge discounts which are actually not a discount ( in pure sense). 
Koutons has a popular discount scheme  known as 50% + 40 % off. So there is a 50% off on the MRP and then another 40% off on the discounted price. So  the consumers obviously are delighted to get a shirt with an MRP of Rs 1500 for as low as Rs 450. Another very successful offer was " Buy 4 garments for the price of One ". Seeing this unbelievable offers , consumers flock into the showrooms and buy what ever that is available .
Along with the deep discounting strategy, the brand also invested some money in the brand building.Koutons has the tagline " The way ahead, always " . It had campaigns featuring foreign models and usually the showrooms are located in upmarket malls thus giving the impression that Koutons are a premium brand.  But frankly no one really knows whether Koutons really sells a shirt for Rs 1500. 
But nobody was complaining because consumers got a feeling to getting a good bargain and that is what matters. So this model worked well for the firm for more that 20 years. As usual, 20 years is pretty long time for consumers to learn the discounting model. The sales started drying up and the cost and inventory started building up. More discounts followed and revenues started sliding. The company landed itself into a financial trouble. ( source).
The brand really was able to tap the " value for money " psyche of the Indian consumer. Indian consumers like a good bargain and for long years, the firm was able to capture profit out of it. But the popularity of other discount outlets of established brands and the quality issues of Koutons paved the way for the downside for the brand. According to some newsreports, the company faced the issue of inventory mis-estimates and huge debts. 
I also have bought the brand believing that I got a good bargain later found that I was a victim of a very clever marketing strategy. Often some students ask me whether Koutons will lose its brand equity if it gives discounts like that, assuming that they sell the product at MRP atleast in some outlets. In the case of Koutons, they sell by these discounts.

In the deep discounting model, the brand is secondary. What matters is the  attractiveness of discounts and high media spents announcing the discounts. It is not the brand that pulls the customers but the perceived bargain. Ofcourse the consumers should feel that the brand is aspirational . So it is a kind of a very risky , clever strategy. Project aspirational image and use discounts to pull the consumer in.

Koutons as a company is in financial trouble and the fate of the brand depends on how the company survives the crisis. The deep discounting model will work in a market like India as long as the firm is able to project the aspirational image. It lacks the glamour of brand-building but may work for short-term. In the long term such deep discounting will eventually kill the brand.