Arvind Brands, a subsidiary of denim and garment maker Arvind Mills Ltd, has revised its distribution policy with the launch of a premium priced range of children's apparel for ages 0-12 in addition to its current brand, Lee Kids, which covers the ages 4-12.

Arvind Brands is tying up with Healthtex, a long-established cotton casuals brand with the second largest share of the children's apparel market in the US, to produce the range which will be launched in October. Healthtex belongs to the US$5.5 billion VF Corp.

"To underline its exclusivity," the company says, Healthtex will be initially marketed through just 10 stores in 8 cities. Once this "exclusivity" has been established, over a period of a year and a half, the distribution will be increased to 50 shops and 100 multi-brand stores.

The children's wear sector in India is worth around US$200 million. About one-eighth of this is the premium priced segment, currently dominated by Planet Kids and Weekender Kids, with sales driven by gift purchases by relatives and parents' work colleagues. Lee Kids is currently not represented in the 0 to 4 year age range, but Arvin Brands hopes this segment will be responsive to a promotion of gifts for newborns/ infants.

In its other garment categories, Arvind Brands has decided to become more aggressive in terms of distribution. The Arrow formal shirt range and Lee and Wrangler jeans have until now been sold only in own-brand stores and prestigious shops. Bowing to market realities, Arvind Brands will now sell these through 'high end' multi-brand outlets "in order to take market share from others." Yet it will be careful not to destroy its premium image.

Although Arvind Brands sells apparel worth US$55 million, its holding company is struggling to stay afloat. The High Court recently aided its rescheduling of loan repayments.

By Navroz Havewala.