Up until 10 years ago, kids in India would wear whatever their caregivers decided was right for them. They were dressed in hand-me-downs, sensible jeans, warm sweaters and comfortable jackets. But gone are those days.
Ten years down the line – today – kids wear has gone from comfort dressing to being fashion-forward. The market for children’s fashion is fast becoming one of the most profitable retail segments in India. Indians are increasingly spending more than they ever have on clothes for children.
The kids fashion segment in India has captured 20 per cent of the total apparel market in the country. According to a Technopak study, given the high growth rate, the kidswear segment in India is expected to increase to 22 per cent by 2023.
Some distinct factors like changes in the family system, increased spending on children, growing brand awareness among kids, and greater focus on the kidswear market by organized players have contributed significantly to the growth of the kidswear market, says the study, along with a growing amount of disposable income.
The fact that India is one of the youngest nations in the world—29 per cent of its 1.2 billion population is under 14 years, according to the World Bank—makes it an attractive market for brands.
So, what makes India an attractive destination for kidswear brands? Says Partner, Little Shop, Shiv Daswani, “India’s population no doubt makes it an attractive destination for kidswear brands. The propensity to consume and the increasing acceptance of national and international brands is proof that the customer today is more aware than ever before.”
Kolkata-based Little Shop, a department store for children – selling everything from kids’ garments, shoes, toys, stationery, books, school merchandise to newborn stuff, cots, prams, walkers, accessories and even baby furniture – has been in the organized kidswear and accessories retail business for over 14 years now. It recently opened its 11th store in West Bengal (9 in Kolkata and 2 in Howrah).
With a heritage dating back 50 years – “our store in New Market opened 50 years ago,” says Daswani – Little Shop has seen steady growth in the business over the years. Demonetization did hit the business, but sales picked up again in December 2016 and by January, business was back on track as far as spending in the kidswear segment went.
“We fall in the necessity and value category, not the luxury segment, so we managed to survive demonetization. However, having said that there is no doubt that people are using debit and credit cards more than ever before,” says Daswani.
Little Shop has a simple pricing strategy – they are the cheapest in the segment. “If a competitor sells it cheaper, we match the price. However, we also focus on variety, customer service, ambience as well as quality. Price is just one of our USPs,” says Daswani.
So, have global brands with their attractive pricing strategy affected Little Shop? “To be honest, many global brands came into India and just couldn’t get their act right. Of course, today Zara, H&M and others are doing well in the kidswear category, but it’s important to understand that the Indian market is not just about a good product, it’s about a good product at a great price and at an accessible (good) location. We provide the customer with this package deal, and we are now a household name in Kolkata for two reasons – first mover advantage as well as the advent of the mall era, which catapulted us to big time,” says Daswani.
Little Shop now has its own portal – http://www.littleshop.in – which has seen reasonable success since its launch. However, the portal does not sell products at discounted prices.
“To succeed in the online business, one needs to have an aggressive pricing strategy. We are not in a valuation game, and hence find it difficult to discount to get clicks online. We prefer to channelize our energy in the brick-and-mortar business as it’s a more viable business model,” says Daswani.
The brand – which started with one store in Forum Mall and then expanded to 5,000 sq. ft. stores at South City Mall and Mani Square Mall – plans on opening a store in April 2017 at City Centre 1 Salt Lake and one in Unitech Downtown Mall by the end of the year.
Other regional players which have been doing well in the kidswear section are Gini & Jony, Lilliput, Toonz Retail, Little Kangaroos and Nauti Nati.