KUALA LUMPUR - Singapore-listed FJ Benjamin (FJB), a leading regional distributor and retailer, could see itself working with more Asian fashion brands as they develop and come into their own.
Yesterday, it inked its first deal with Malaysia's Padini Group to distribute its brand of shoes and accessories in Indonesia.
FJB signed on the Malaysian-listed firm in an exclusive 10-year deal to distribute VNC products, which are sold under the Vincci label in Malaysia.
It's not a question of where the brand is from, says FJB CEO Nash Benjamin, when asked about the deal. "It could be from Asia, America or Africa - it doesn't matter. It's important that we find it interesting and relevant," he says.
It's early days yet, but he personally sees this as a future trend, as more Asian companies develop their own brands for their immediate markets. "Asia today isn't the same as it was 10, 20 years ago. And we have an investment in what our markets want," he adds.
Padini's MD Yong Pang Chaun, meanwhile, notes that this partnership is the best way going forward into Indonesia. "Padini is strong in product development and FJB is strong in marketing. So this is a good partnership," he says.
Under the master franchise agreement, FJB, through its associate PT Gilang Agung Persada, will open 25 stores within five years all over Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of the fastest growing markets today, with a top spot in consumer optimism, a population of 240 million and an expanding middle class. FJB currently has 95 stores in Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali, Medan and Makassar - the largest number of stores in its distribution network encompassing Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
It manages over 20 iconic brands in the cities, and its annual turnover was in excess of $350 million in 2010/11, with an annual net profit of $13 million.
The Padini Group, meanwhile, started in 1971 in Malaysia. The Vincci brand was launched in 1981, and contributes about 30 per cent of the group's annual turnover. The company's turnover in the last financial year was RM568 million (S$225 million).
Besides Vincci, the group has eight other distinct labels: Padini, Padini Authentics, PDI, P&Co, Seed, Vincci+, Vincci Accessories, and Miki Kids. Its shoes and accessories are distributed outside Malaysia under the VNC label, and its biggest overseas market currently is the Persian Gulf countries in the Middle East.
VNC made inroads into Indonesia about five years ago, under a different franchisee whose agreement has lapsed. The brand is not available yet in Singapore, but Mr Yong notes that this is something the company could look at going forward.
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