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In-depth: Will mini-lockdowns play spoilsport for fashion retailers this festive season?

Fashion brands are unlikely to open their purse strings for the festive season as mini-lockdowns across the nation make operations difficult. The companies, however, are likely to spend most part of their budgets on digital to cash in on the e-commerce channels

India may have gone into the unlock phase but the state and district-wide lockdowns are hurting the revival of fashion and apparel brands. The category, which is not considered as essential, isn't likely to pick up for a long time as the offices also remain shut.

The festive season is the period when brands make most of their annual sales. According to rough estimates, sales are almost 30%-40% of the annual figures.

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Sai Sangeeta Israni

Sai Sangeeta Israni, GM Marketing, Spykar Lifestyles, says business is not comparable to the previous years due to the overall economic slowdown and falling incomes.

“We are expecting a marginal jump over the last few months as although customers get excited about the festive period, due to social distancing, limited mobility and other economic factors, the impact of festival buying is not like the previous years,” she said.

Umashan Naidoo, Head of Customer, Westside, said that given the current situation, few customers will still be resisting the urge to shop during the festive season.

He added, “However, it is a growth period for the entire fashion category along with winter and tran-seasonal, so our focus is balancing all the opportunities.”

Srinivas Rao

Optimistic of the upcoming festive season, Srinivas Rao, Sr. Vice-President, Marketing, Lifestyle, said he is expecting a positive response in terms of growth with ethnic wear and occasion wear leading as categories.

While the current situation is very dynamic, Sonata from Titan too is witnessing green shoots of recovery.

Subish Sudhakaran

Subish Sudhakaran, Marketing Head, Sonata, said, “We feel both our traditional and modern audiences will consider the brands for celebrations that may be smaller in scale, but no less important to the customer.”

Krsnaa Mehta

Since people are spending a lot of their time at home, Krsnaa Mehta, Founder and Executive Director at India Circus, is hopeful that the festive season will prompt customers to put the long overdue home makeover plan into action this festive season.

“We're expecting recovery of business from the pandemic impact and growth in sales from our online channels and we feel the offline consumer sentiment will rise slowly once there is enough word of mouth about the safety and frictionless in-store shopping experience,” he added.

Like all non-essential categories, the path to recovery was slow to begin with when markets started opening in phases from May onwards, but Fastrack sees very encouraging signs as consumer sentiment is coming back among the youth.

Ayushman Chiranewala

“We only see this getting stronger with the festive season. Considering the markets have started opening up and consumers are stepping out slowly for more than just essential purchases, we are expecting a healthy growth this festive season,” said Ayushman Chiranewala, Head of Product and Marketing, Fastrack.

Alisha Malik

Alisha Malik, VP, Marketing and e-commerce, Metro Brands, said, “We do not expect the sales to be as much as a regular festive season, however customers will shop for themselves and for gifting as well. This will be more of a ‘feel good’ shopping therapy.”

Metro Brands is heavily relying on e-commerce along with stores while continuing to offer ‘home visit’ and ‘drive thru’ services. It also plans to set up pop-up stores in apartments, wherein customers can get a safe shopping experience in their apartment complex itself.

Partial recovery of adex

There is certainly a reduction in adex across different channels since footfalls at physical stores would depend a lot on how the government eases its restrictions, said Mehta.

Israni said the industry and category is going through a turmoil and this has had deeper impact on business and, therefore, structuring of spends and investments too.

“All spends are being heavily monitored and only necessary expenditures undertaken. For discretionary categories, it would heavily impact the ad spends,” she added.

Given the overall consumer sentiment, even Naidoo agreed that Westside’s intent is not to “cash in”.

Chiranewala expects digital to be the strongest medium in the accessories space, followed by print and TV.

Fastrack has some new fashion watch collections lined up for the festive season, and sees that being very relevant for its customers.

Advertising expenditure has come down in the last quarter, but Sonata is looking at getting back on communication mediums and staying connected with the consumers. And thus, it had invested in digital and also resumed print advertising.

“Digital is one of the first mediums we restarted investing in this year, however, print and TV will also serve mass reach and brand health objectives very well, and an integrated approach may be more critical than an either-or format,” Sudhakaran said.

Sonata is introducing some new designs and attractive modern concepts at compelling price points this festive season with some new launches also planned ahead.

For Westside, traditional media like TV and print are not even the focus, as the strategy is majorly digital-first.

“Our communication around the festive spirit will be fashion led as we are a fashion retailer. In these testing times, digital mediums have enabled us to engage with our customers in conversations that go beyond fashion,” said Naidoo.

Westside, while delivering the promise of safety, empathy and experience apart from style, technology, innovation and price, is expecting to sell out and re-learn from the consumer behaviour and spending pattern over this festive season.

Rao said digital along with social media will witness a high trajectory for Lifestyle this year.

The brand will focus on leveraging digital, with a strong emphasis on creating relevant content and also will be launching festive lines and celebrity curated collections to help customers make most of the festive season.

Much of the efforts this festive season will be focused on digital channels and attention would soon be given to other mediums once normalcy resumes, said Mehta.

Being very bullish about sales, India Circus is optimistic of the sales while adding new designs and range to its products.

“Digital definitely takes precedence over all other media as online shopping has seen a substantial growth during the lockdown and continued sustained traction even in unlock 3.0,” said Israni.

Spykar has introduced exciting offers in stores to encourage festive buying for oneself and family and has high hopes for its Spykar Care category, including sanitisers, face masks and other hygiene products.

Metro’s spends too will be highly concentrated on digital platforms. Additionally, it also planned to spend in reaching out to customers via WhatsApp and SMS while also focusing on on-ground activation to have higher visibility and instant sales.  

IPL to attract some category adex

Speaking on behalf of Sonata’s association with IPL, Sudhakaran said, “IPL is a huge opportunity for Sonata, as we also have a collection-level association with CSK. This collection has always done well for us and we are betting big on it this year.”

Even Fastrack views this as a great opportunity.

“From what it looks like, this year the visibility for this event alone would be the highest compared to any other event. While IPL is one large-crowd puller, the season this time will also clash with many channels starting their marquee shows at prime time. So, it will be an interesting balance for brands on the basis of the core TG fit, spill-overs and, hence, overall ROI. We see this as an opportunity to reconnect with our audience and making up for all the lost time,” said Chiranewala.

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