DELHI: A street in Defence Colony, a tony Delhi locality, is fast emerging a high street where one can buy a Stella McCartney runway piece for Rs 14 lakh, crystal chandeliers priced more than Rs 50 lakh and many more luxe items.
Many top brands and designers including Kitsch, Nirav Modi, Swarovski, Tarun Tahliani and Rohit Bal have found a new address at D Block, a leafy if often crowded bylane off the Defence Colony flyover, saying it offers greater footfalls, brand visibility and accessibility than high-rent premises of exclusive malls.
"People are tired of going to the malls now," says Radhika Gupta, director at Moonriver, a lifestyle store on this lane that sells premium fashion, fragrances and home decor. "This lane may not be like the Bond Street or Madison Avenue of the West, but it is definitely transforming into an upscale shopping and lifestyle destination," she adds.
Kitsch, a high-end store that retails brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, recently shut its 2,000-square feet store at the Vasant Kunj luxury mall Emporio and shifted to an old bungalow in D block.
"The rent is half of what we were paying at Emporio," says Priya Sachdev, who runs Kitsch. Naresh Kumar, an executive at property brokerage Roots Realty, says rentals in the street range between Rs 150 and Rs 250 per square feet per month compared to DLF Emporio's Rs 500-1,500 per sq ft range.
"The demand for stores and spaces (at D block) is growing rapidly. Last three years have seen a lot of action," he says. When Nirav Modi, one of the best known Indian jewellery designers, decided to open his first high-end retail store in Delhi, his search also ended at this street, where he will open the door in January.
Modi, who is now busy monitoring fit outs and interiors of the 6,000 square feet store, says he looked all around Delhi before settling for this place. Luxury retailers say this street offers better visibility and accessibility, being centrally located close to plush residential areas in the city and offering easy access to those from outside the city.
India's luxury market is expected to reach $14.73 billion, or about Rs 90,000 crore, by 2015 from an estimated $8.21 billion (about Rs 52,000 crore) this year, with about 30% of the customers coming from smaller cities, according to a recent report by Assocham and Yes Bank. While a host of global brands are entering the country, high rentals and lack of quality retail space have affected their expansion.
Besides DLF Emporio in Delhi, Palladium Mall in Mumbai and UB City in Bangalore, luxury brands are mostly restricted to the shopping arcades of five-star hotels. There is lack of space, and what's available comes at a very high price.
So, retailers have started to look out for alternative options across India, which has resulted in emergence of new high street locations such as Horniman Circle in Mumbai and Khader Nawaz Khan Road in Chennai, which are offering spaces to brands such as Hermes, Kitsch, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin in the range of Rs 250-400 per sq ft a month.
The D Block lane at Delhi's Defence Colony is the latest in this small list of Indian high streets.
With the likes of Nirav Modi, Kitsch, Arjun & Anjali Kapoor adding to the existing list of luxury products and service destinations like Swarovski lighting store, Ekaya (Banarasi saris retailer), Moonriver, premium food retailer Godrej Nature's Basket, Looks beauty salon, besides designers stores such as Tarun Tahliani, JJ Valaya and Rohit Bal, the street already offers a different experience from the standard mall routine. Designer Anjalee Kapoor, who is opening a store here in three weeks, says a location like this is more convenient for her clients.
"Since designers work on appointment basis, families that come to our store often spend 5-6 hours at a go as customising garments requires a lot of time. All this is a bit inconvenient in a mall environment. I do not see myself in a mall or a five-star hotel," she says. Kapoor says her clients are rich, refined and spend on quality stuff.
Sachdev of Kitsch says she wanted to expand the format by adding new categories such as fine dining, jewellery and home decor, which required a larger space, preferably a standalone one.
"The idea was to create a destination for those looking for good food, fashion and other lifestyle products. Even the existing brands required bigger space, which was not possible to do at the earlier mall store," she says. Stores such as Moonriver also organise weekend events such as pep talks, film screenings and book reading sessions, which attract the intellectual elite of the city as well.Most stores offer free valet parking services. Brands also like the fact that their signages are visible from the street. In a mall, only one or two anchor tenants get street-visible branding.
Street visibility, they say, helps raise awareness about the brand and also attracts customers who might not be regulars at a luxury mall. At the same time, it helps avoid the casual footfalls that sometimes crowd out stores in a mall and deter genuine customers.