Zippo branches out in India with lifestyle products

“We are planning to soon introduce Zippo branded watches, fragrances and apparel in India,” David B. Warfel, the company’s director for global marketing, told IANS.

“Zippo is no more only a lighter brand as the business has been diversified from a windproof lighter brand to a lifestyle brand – maintaining Zippo’s heritage, independent values and brand identity.

“In recent months, the company has stepped up its effort to diversify by launching the fragrance and other Zippo-branded products, such as casual clothing, watches and camping supplies.”

And that’s how India comes into the picture.

“India has been on our radar for four years. It was a question of creating a functional critical mass, to expand our product portfolio and grow our retail distribution,” Warfel explained.

Towards this, Zippo is currently present at 150 retail points in India.

“We have tied up with some leading MBOs (multi-brand outlets) in the country for shop-in-shop formats and also plan to open exclusive retail points for Zippo across cities. Zippo lighters are sold through counters at retail shops in malls and high streets.

“Among Tier II and III cities, we are covering almost 20 to 25 markets and the response has been really good so far. But our key focus lies in the top 10 cities of the country,” Warfel explained.

As part of these plans, come June 2012 and the company hopes to open a flagship store in a “high-traffic retail environment” in New Delhi or Mumbai.

Elaborating on this, Warfel said: “We have created a Zippo concept store in the US and we are going to take the same model globally. All our flagship stores in various countries will follow the same pattern to keep the brand heritage alive.

“Once we open our flagship store in India, we would like to carry on the distributor route as it largely revolves around their understanding and prevailing trends in the market,” he added.

Apart from its manufacturing facility at Bradford in Pennsylvania, Zippo currently sources some of its products from countries like Italy, China, Japan and South Korea.

Asked whether there were any such plans from India, Warfel said: “As far as partnerships are concerned, it is too early to comment. We are at a very nascent stage and growing along with the market trend; so such partnerships are not in the pipeline right now.”

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at [email protected])