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Archies to go premium this Valentine's

January 19, 2006 12:26 IST

A greeting card says it best. And if it is priced at Rs 699, it might say it even better. Or at least so Archies would like.

As Valentine's Day draws closer, gift and card companies are scurrying around to turn February 14 into an "express-your-love" day in such a way that a nice gush of cash comes to accompany every beat of the heart.

Archies, which had first-mover advantage in the Indian Valentine's market, has launched greeting cards that redefine the notion of premium, priced between Rs 199-699 per card.

Counter-intuitive as it sounds, this is perhaps the best way to see off the threat posed by electronic modes of messaging. Or so Anil Moolchandani, chairman and managing director of the Rs 74-crore (Rs 740 million) company, hopes. "This Valentine's," he enthuses, "we are looking to add a percentage of premium customers to our kitty."

There's enough gifting cash to go round, reckons Moolchandani, who is bringing in the Italian brand Florence to sell porcelain figurines that would be tagged upwards of Rs 4,000 apiece. Archies is also excited about Stupid Cupid, a new retail chain of fashion accessories that's distinct from the Archies Gallery stores.

"While Archies Gallery would cater to budgets within Rs 200 and a few impulse buyers," explains Moolchandani, "the Stupid Cupid stores would carry an average price ticket of Rs 500."

The company plans to open 18 Stupid Cupid stores across Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore by the end of 2006-07. This, even as it plans another 180 large format stores across 10 cities in three years.

But what of the core business of affordable greeting cards? In the good old days, Archies would sell 750 million cards a year. Moolchandani acknowledges that technology has taken some of the market away, but claims, "People still like to receive cards."

Getting into card delivery is one idea. Explains Moolchandani, "A customer can drop a card at an Archies store for us to courier."

Then there's the online gifting business, which is still nascent, at 6,000 online orders last year, but potentially large. "We hope to sell around 600 million cards this year. Our premium priced cards should do the trick," hopes Moolchandani.

Perhaps there's a durability cue in De Beer's campaign for diamonds: the notional value of something that lasts "forever".
Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
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