Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Nov 02, 2002
Marketing - Strategy
Expressions in stationery soon
CHENNAI, Nov. 1
STATIONERY will be the next area of focus for ITC Expressions, the greeting cards brand of ITC Ltd.
Speaking to Business Line here, Mr Chand Das, Chief Executive, Greeting Cards Business, ITC, said the company would be going national with its stationery by January 2003. The products, mostly notebooks and notepads, would be priced between Rs 15 and Rs 100 and would be stocked at stationers' as well as at the retail outlets Expressions cards are available in.
This entails enlarging the number of retail outlets Expressions is now available in. The cards are available in around 10,000 outlets across 700 towns already. Getting its notebooks into stationery stores would be the new challenge for the company. Their quality and design would be the two factors which would draw customers away from cheaper alternatives, Mr Das said. Brand building for these products would centre around point-of-sale material. They have been test-marketed in Chennai and Hyderabad.
According to Mr Das, "Stationery and cards are the two pillars Expressions would rest on." Its portfolio also includes autograph books, slam books and gift-wrapping paper.
The brand is eyeing the No 2 slot in the greeting cards business by March 2003, which is now occupied by Vintage Cards & Creations. Expressions now has a 10 per cent share of the Rs 250-crore greeting cards market, while Vintage has 12 per cent and Archies Greetings has 35 per cent. Mr Das said his brand was poised to beat Archies in two years' time.
ITC Expressions has also started producing cards in regional languages. Called Expressions Matrubhasha (`Always your very own', says the tagline), they are available in the four Southern languages, Gujarati, Bengali and Marathi, apart from Hindi and English. The Southern languages are a first in the business in the organised sector, Mr Das claimed.
The market for regional language cards is untapped. "Upcountry markets are likely to be the prime movers in this segment, and these cards have the potential to expand the market," said Mr Das. He added that these markets accounted for two-thirds of card sales. Regional language cards comprise five per cent of Expressions' portfolio of cards. These cards, as well as the humorous and festival cards, are popular buys, he said.
Mr Das claimed a certain level of innovation in his Diwali cards. The focus in these cards was on building relationships and therefore, there are Diwali cards personalised to parents, siblings and so on.
"The range strives to add a personal emotional connect between the recipient and the giver," he said. Also, all cards priced above Rs 10 carry silver-plated coins engraved with the images of Ganesha and Lakshmi in keeping with a common auspicious tradition.
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