The mother of all booms in India is undoubtedly the explosion of the middleclass, which has driven real estate consumption to over 120 million households (according to the India census, 2016) for whom the affordability of their own homes have become a reality. Added to this is the demand for commercial space, which is expected to grow more than 18 million square feet, while retail space is projected to grow more than 6.4 million square feet annually across the top eight cities in India by 2019 (India Real Estate Industy, India Brand Equity Foundation).
That probably explains why the Indian tile market is the second largest in the world,growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 11.6 percent, and is expected to reach $8.5 billion (USD) by 2022, in which the organized sector enjoys a 40 percent share (Ken Research Analysis).
Even in the tile and fittings category, the connected Indian consumer has the power of choice of products and shopping channels literally in the palm of their hands. Brands and retailers have responded by creating new products and experiences in order to stay relevant to the new needs of this consumer. The demand for contemporary designs, tech-driven product innovations and environmentally friendly offerings have become the new normal. Traditionally, this sector focused on the influencers (designers, architects and contractors) to recommend products, but now the focus is increasingly moving to attract, inform and convert the well-informed end user. Indian retail designers, visual merchandisers and tech geeks are collaborating like never before to enhance the buying experience in tile and fittings stores in India. I have seen the change from the experience being a mere transactional one a few years ago to its current transformation into an engaging one.
Here are a few examples, that I handpicked, that testify why and how tiles and fittings have become an intrinsic part of every urban Indian household’s lifestyle definition. A closer look made me realize that three distinctly different approaches are being employed in creating differentiated store experiences which I call Flaunt, Create and Disrupt.
The Flaunt trend uses a provocative design language to push the boundaries of the imaginations of the target segment. The ABC Emporio store located in Kannur, spread over 20,000 square feet, demonstrates this right from its sculptural façade, where LED-lit corian panels create a futuristic dynamic color-changing form. This differentiated play of form and light is extended into the interior via edge-lit furniture that helps create the Sci-Fi setting for presenting the store’s curated luxury bathroom solutions in a well organized gallery.
The Create trend can be observed at the Kohler Experience Centre that focuses on offering a hands-on, immersive experience through a studio-like environment spread over 10,000 square feet. This designer gallery like store experience is built around the creativity of seven leading Indian architects and designers who are invited to express their design talent in creating luxury bathroom concepts. The store features four key areas – Café, Designer Gallery, Warehouse and Lab. While the Café is dedicated to meetings and design events, the Designer Gallery is a platform where customers get to interact with the creators of the concepts featured there. The brand’s most premium collection is displayed along the periphery of the space with each piece artistically highlighted to emphasize its craftsmanship and exclusivity.
The Disrupt trend is on display at the Jaquar Experience Center, which showcases the brands expertise in complete premium and luxury bathroom solutions. This concept, spread over 10,000 square feet, is based on the idea that Jaquar products “bring water to life.” This is articulated by abstracting an experience of “sculpting water” to express the legacy, values and futuristic views of the brand. The store design language uses the rasas in Natyashatra, i.e., emotions in dance, from the traditions of the Indian dance artform. This is realized in a multi-sensory experience that weaves spatial, interactive, audio-visual content and technology into a seamless storytelling journey across the different zones. Cutting-edge technology like interactive floor projections, fog screens, touchscreens, a blown glass droplets installation and organic forms come together to create a one-of-a-kind experience that breaks all conventional boundaries in how this category influences a purchase.
It’s heartening to see such inspiring examples as these that take the lead in transforming the way the tile and fitting industry use an impactful collaboration of retail design, visual merchandising and technology. This tale of tiles has just begun and I am sure the Indian consumer has a lot more in store that will make shopping in this segment much more enjoyable and convenient than ever before.
Surender has more than two decades of experience in the Indian retail industry in retail strategy, store design, planning and development, retail marketing, visual merchandising, writing and academia. He’s held senior positions at leading retailers like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, Mahindra Retail and as a senior retail consultant working with leading retailers and brands in India. Reach him at email@example.com.