With so much changing so fast during these unpredictable times, the overall retail industry has been in a bit of a fix for quite some time now, as the ongoing pandemic has created an overwhelming sense of fear and caution amongst people while changing the consumer buying behaviour and heavily impacting the businesses while also leading to an economic slowdown. While the revenue generation came to a complete halt for the apparel retail industry during the lockdown which later started with the staggered reopening of retail stores as the country entered the Unlock phases, business is yet to go back to normal. However, the months starting October have given a hope to the apparel and lifestyle brands as the sector is showing signs of revival during the ongoing festive and the approaching wedding season and the players in the segment are banking on festive shopping to revive their sales numbers even further.
According to a report by Crisil Ltd., the overall apparel retail market is expected to register a dip by 30-35 per cent this fiscal year and that demand is expected to recover during the months of October-December. With more than 85 per cent of the retail space now operational, even as customers are shopping for apparel now, the average ticket size remained low and retail brands are devising methods and ideas to recover from their losses and capitalise on the traditional shopping period.
While the fashion retail industry is trying hard to fight the lockdown blues, it has not been all gloomy after all and there have been signs of recovery. Lifestyle retailers reported almost 20 per cent growth in August, the best since the retail stores reopened in June. Ishaan Sachdeva, Director, Alberto Torresi, maintains “With the norms of social distancing expected to remain in place, along with the fear of stepping out in public places, the share of sales from e-commerce significantly increased for Alberto Torresi already. However, we as retailers are expecting 50 per cent demand recovery for all our formal categories launched lately, in the festive. The festive season — from Dussehra to Diwali – is expected to see resumption in sales closer to the pre-Covid levels. The festive season is a great opportunity for us to boost sales and profitability via omnichannel strategy, tapping social media to engage with the customer, strengthen e-commerce channels and increase advertising. Surely, we are not going to get growth immediately, as it is not going to be a buoyant time due to erosion in income, but we believe that at least 50 per cent of normalcy in sales will come back during festivals.”
Others like Madame, Raisin and even e-commerce majors like Myntra and Amazon are also expecting increase in sales numbers and good revenue generation during the ongoing festive season. Madame is targeting to achieve 100 per cent of like-to-like sales owing to the festive spirit and increasing footfall at its stores. The brand maintained while the overall YTD sales haven’t touched 50 per cent mark, but with festivals and early winter season, it is aiming to achieve 70 per cent Y-o-Y business at the end of the fiscal. Cantabil and Donear Industries too are expecting revenue growth by 40 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively, in comparison to the previous months.
Festive season also contributes majorly to the annual sales of ethnicwear brands (in the tune of 25 per cent) and these brands saw muted sales during the initial months of reopening. However, the onset of festivities – right from Eid in July and Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam in August – brought a ray of hope for this category and the expectations are high of good revenue generation during the ongoing festive season and the upcoming wedding season. “We are anticipating a growth of 30 per cent this festive season. We have curated a vast range of products keeping in mind the lounge aspect as also the trends of the season and are hoping for business recovery. The price bracket for this year’s festive collection is Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 10,000, aimed at attracting more consumers,” avers Mansi Gupta, Founder & CEO, Tjori. Furthermore, it is also important for the retailers to offer what consumers are really looking for. While the festive season has always been about going glitzy and glamorous, the pandemic has changed that and the consumers are now looking for something dressy but comfortable.
Ameet Panchal, CEO, Shree Balaji Ethnicity Retail Limited, says, “There definitely will be shopping; however the demand for ostentatious clothes will be far reduced and minimalistic styles that double up as festive attire will go up. Customers will rummage their current wardrobe to intermix already owned outfits and will be experimental with their styling combinations and there will be more demand for accessories and accompaniments. Our ‘Utsav’ range of products are a collection of styles that tell the story about India in all its festive splendour. Taking inspiration from Indian embroidery techniques from different realms of the country, the collection focuses on detailed zari embroidery designs intermixed with delicate aari work. Woven onto exquisite velvets, chanderi silks and silk blends, our festive range is crafted in vivid hues like ruby reds, magentas, mustards, onion pinks and greens that lend a prismatic touch best suited for the celebratory period. We understand the customer sentiments at this crucial period and hence our Utsav collection is accessibly priced at an average price of Rs. 1,299 to Rs. 2,499.”
Putting the best pitch forward
While the industry is expecting and hoping for a business revival, majority of them are still struggling to devise the best way forward to lure back the customers to them. Retail experts are advising the apparel retailers to tap social media in order to engage with customers while also strengthening e-commerce channels and fuelling advertising funds. Vishal Pacheriwal, Co-founder, Raisin, asserts, “Our goal is to entice customers through good festive offers and discounts on our festive wear, with our focus being majorly on our online portals. With people being majorly home-bound due to the increase in the number of Covid positive cases, there is also a new set of customers who usually do not prefer to shop online that we aim to pull in through offering first purchase discounts. A major chunk of the celebrations this year will be intimate with a small gathering restricted to homes. Hence, we have also curated a special festive collection with an idea to provide clothing that is comfortable enough to be worn indoors yet its details, the colour palette and the rich fabric imbibed would give customers a total festive look and feel. These styles are specially designed keeping in the mind the nature of the situation and are trans-seasonal hence can be worn during the festive season and beyond.”
Also, majority of marketers and fashion brands are looking at personal engagement as the new way to bring consumers onboard and this has become the new norm. Nishant Malhotra, Co-founder, Weaverstory, agrees, “While there is a concern with the recent increase in cases once again in Delhi, we are focusing on online medium for sales and for interacting with our consumers. We are in direct contact with our consumer base and are offering styling classes, online appointments through video calls across time zones, amongst other engagement strategies. Diwali being an important event for all Indians, we are offering special offers and accessories for gifting, etc. We have been offering traditional handloom designs for centuries now and have recently also modernised our blouses, accessories, for our discerning customers.”
Besides everything, the biggest concern right now is whether customers are willing to come out to shop or not and while e-commerce is a way out, offline has always been the preferred way to shop for many Indians. For N. Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, a consumer analytics and brand insights company, the solution is to go to the consumer if they do not come to the retail store. And retail brands are leaving no stones unturned to bring the business on track while also creating an all new consumer base for their respective brands. In line with this, few brands in the likes of Soch have been delivering store experience to the customers at the convenience of their homes. Soch is engaging with RWAs and residential committees to conduct pop ups at several apartment complexes and societies which allows residents to shop for new outfits without having to go beyond the comfort of their apartments.
Considering most of the sales happen during these months, brands are extensively promoting their products through various campaigns and ATL and BTL modes. Shopping centres too are launching campaigns in order to lure back the customers during the festive months. Delhi’s Select CITYWALK is decked up for Diwali and has launched a campaign #CityShinesAgain to welcome back the customers with community activities and indulgent shopping options. Select CITYWALK has launched a stunning ethnicwear collection with various partner stores (L’affaire, Good earth, Fabindia, Amrapali, Needledust, Beau Monde, OutHouse, W & Pantaloons) to celebrate Diwali. DLF Avenue, Saket has also rolled out ‘Celebration Shopping Starts at DLF Avenue’ with Rushali Rai of Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking fame as the face of the campaign. DLF Avenue is offering gifts/vouchers and multiple shopping offers, to make the festive season brighter and more delightful for its customers. Meanwhile, Lifestyle, from The Landmark Group, has also launched #DilSeDiwali festive campaign inspired by the joyful feelings that the festival of light ushers in. The campaign takes a leap from 2019, to capture the heart of the celebrations in the context of the recent times where everyone is looking forward to the dress-up and dispel the gloom by celebrating Diwali in their own unique way. Lifestyle has launched its all new festive collection as well which comprises trendy apparel and accessories that are handpicked keeping Diwali in mind.
With a lot of pent-up demand from the lockdown duration and cut down on a lot of discretionary spends, retail brands are working on the right path to direct these savings towards retail spends with a plethora of deals available. All the major brands are offering discounts of up to 60-70 per cent. Amazon announced its month-long festive event ‘Great Indian Festival’ starting from 17 October 2020. Myntra too is offering discounts of up to 80 per cent during its festive sale event and has even worked on its backend technology and infrastructure to address the surge of 20,000 orders per minute. All these factors are drawing a very positive growth trajectory for the fashion retail industry looking at the festive season to bring back the business on track.