IRN: First of all, congratulations on the successful completion and launch of Palladium. Please tell us about the vision and mission of the Palladium project and the early days. How was it conceived?
Gayatri Ruia: Palladium is one of India's first true premium and luxury centres. It has been defined to be special and unique. It has refined the taste and style for both the discerning and theregular shopper. In key aspects of building it, interiors and exteriors, shop outfits, brands, services, the Palladium has been keen to spell out class and exquisiteness par excellence. For instance, Palladium interiors are the reflection of the old Bombay Art Deco concept of 1960's and 1950's. The detailing of the panels, ceiling, in lay motifs and floor, is a reflection of a specific time and space that makes Palladium very very unique. Last but not the least, right from the initial interception and conceiving such a high-end destination, Palladium gives a blend of first time and established stores in India and Mumbai. We did tweak our initial plans of only super luxury, after collating various end user data and shopping patterns, and finally achieved, I think, the right mix of retailers, in order to create a more vibrant experience for our customers.
IRN: Please tell us a little about your association with luxury, specifically luxury retailing.
Gayatri Ruia: I have made it a point to visit key malls across the globe, studying in-depth the wayin whichofferings are made in various markets. Luxury is not just a name or brand, even if you wear something comfortably and accessorize well;what provides value long after it waspaid for, in quality terms, could be defined as luxury. In India, luxury retailing is a niche space. It covers onlyten percent of the population, which is the UNIs, HNIs and ancestral families. The kind of products and services offered to this market has seen a distinct change. Now with the advent of young income groups, first time purveyors and entrepreneurs, luxury brands in India are putting up 'affordable luxury'. Also, it was necessary to really understand what the new age Indians want, and respect our cultural and regional compulsions. Years of being a retailer with my designer store Mogra certainly helped to give me an in-depth understanding of the luxury market and its psyche.
IRN: What were the learnings about the Indian customer and retail landscape, as you set about with this project?
Gayatri Ruia: Palladium was envisaged nearly three years ago. At that time, we had looked at offering super luxury and luxury offerings. With the recession worldwide, international retailers have seen a dip in earnings and are still have not fully recovered. We have restrategized our approach and product mix. At Palladium, you will find an array of offerings that meet these price points and class of shoppers' viz. Sec A+, A which patronize their own signature label.
IRN: What were the positive surprises?
Gayatri Ruia: The market and shoppers' have responded considerably and favourably to what is in store. Nearly 90 per cent of the centre is ready and are trading, barring justtwo or three more. We will also have soon the five star hotel Shangri Laat Palladium,a year from now at best. The stores and footfalls have reflected good sales, especially ones such as Zara, Diesel, Punjab Grill. I think, going purely by facts and figures, the conversions that many stores see at Palladium and the average trading revenue per square feetare quite unprecedented in India,as yet for any mall development.
IRN: Please update our readers on the status of occupancies and recent developments.
Gayatri Ruia: There are many firsts such as Zara, flagship Burberry, Etro, Diesel. Our customers can look forward to the addition of some more star brands in the near future, plusa world class cafe in the atrium, as well as a loyalty program amongst other things.
IRN: Please tell us a little about some individual brands within your mall. What stories have they shared with you?
Gayatri Ruia: Indigo Deli has crossed some phenomenal sales records already, and Palladium is soon becoming a regular haunt of many Bollywood celebrities who are clearly becoming loyalists of several of the designer and luxury stores here.
IRN: How important is F&B to the overall project?
Gayatri Ruia: There are seven F&B outlets. Each of them provides a variety of eating experience from local Indian dishes to fine dining South Asian cuisine. F&B has been factored in, providing the kind of experience centres are built aboard. F&B brings a significant portion of the revenue and it's integral, as Palladium has stores and restaurants that blend into the total ambience of retail experience for the customer.
IRN: What do you anticipate as future trends in your industry?
Gayatri Ruia: The retail led real estate experience is poised for its next big leap, providing the FDI control on retail and its industry status is established by the Indian government that will set a turning point for goods and services. I see that we will have at Palladium too, a churning of brands and products that meet the market mood and sentiments at the time. Within a short span of not more than two years, the industry will reflect international brands becoming more 'desi' and affordable.
IRN: What would you say to young professionals looking for a career in luxury retailing?
Gayatri Ruia: India will become a significant stakeholder in the luxury arena in another 5 years, and the potential in this field is immense but success can be costly with imposing entry barriers, real estate costs and capital intensive store fit outs and inventory. Understanding product and customer and enhanced merchandizing areas are the key areas to focus on. Those choosing luxury retailing as a career option must focus on improving their knowledge base and network within the field as much as possible.