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Women and kids wear minds meet in Pure and Play

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India Fashion Forum with support from ministry of textiles, government of India, hosted the second edition of Pure and Play from June 29 to July 1, at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.

Conceptualised to direct the growth of the womenswear and kidswear market, Pure and Play brought together ideas, innovations, concepts and minds from the fashion and retail industry. The annual affair gained added relevance this year with three other events held alongside: namely, Fashion Alliance-supported India Brand Show (IBS), the retail exhibition – The Shop, and The Nokia Images CEOs Meet.

While the Pure and Play conference got the minds from the business of fashion to debate and discuss issues and opportunities in the women’s and kids’ categories, the exhibition arena showcased brands and suppliers of category-specific merchandise from across the country.

Talking about the relevance of the event, Rakesh Biyani, chairman, Pure and Play 2008, & CEO, Future Retail, India’s largest retailer, said, “At Pure and Play 2007, we retailers could discuss not just merchandise selection with a cross-section of global and home-grown brands, but also could explore product development facilities with mega exporters plus many small vendors that have the potential to cater to our varied customer base.”

“The strategy is to connect vendors, manufacturers (from small to large) and designers to organised retail merchandisers and buyers through a b2b interface that allows product displays, sampling, sourcing, merchandise management and vendor-retailer relationship – all at one venue,” Amitabh Taneja, chief convenor, India Fashion Forum, stated.

While the kidswear segment was represented by brands like Gini & Jony, Lilliput, and Zapp!, the exclusive womenswear segment was led by brands like W, Bizzare, and Jole. Learnings from brands that have expanded into womenswear – like Van Heusen, Park Avenue, Allen Solly, and Blackberrys – were of key importance for global and Indian brands exploring the Indian womenswear market.

The India retail fraternity was represented by major players including Future Group (Pantaloon Retail), Reliance, Shoppers Stop, Spencer’s, Lifestyle, Trent, Globus, and Aditya Birla Retail. Rituwears, the Delhi-based retailer with major expansion plans, held its vendor meet at Pure and Play.

Retail access

Day one of the event began with the session, ‘Walk through Pure and Play’, moderated by Gopal Ratnam Kannan, country head, Swatch India. The session saw Kannan attributing the evolution of the Indian market to modern Indian middle-class and outgoing women. “The India retail market is evolving and in the coming years, the middle-class women will determine the deciding points in Indian retail. With the entry of women in almost every corporate field, retail in India is going to gain more heights.”

Kannan advised retailers to focus on branding and communication to gain more consumers. “Store display and proper positioning of products play an important role in establishing a brand image,” he said. From his own experience, Kanan cited that women consumers are more attracted to products and commodities related to cricket and cinema. “Products should be communicated well, and cricket and Bollywood should be regarded as a tool of communication,” he added.

Speaking on the same issue, Ram Chander Agarwal, CMD, Vishal Retail, said: “Value retail in India is largely dominated by women and children. About 70 per cent of our consumers are women, and we are focussed to serve this gender more.”

Speaking on the impediments to growth for Indian value retail, Agarwal said, “Operational costs generally bother a value retailer. However, if you adopt certain strategies, the issue can be managed easily. Controlling these costs is the key to success for a retailer.”

Agarwal also pointed out that some governmental policies are causing problems for the retailers in India. “In the current scenario, inflation has been the biggest impediments for the retail industry.” Nevertheless, Agarwal said that Vishal is not being affected by the inflation as, being value retailers, they provide commodities in lesser prices.

The inaugural session was followed by a debate ‘Sales vs space growth in different formats’. Anchored by Sanjeev Mohanty, MD, Benetton India, the session starred Charath Narashiman, CEO, Indian Terrain; Sanjay Dua, CEO, Lino Perros; Sumit Sharma, national head, Apparel Operations, Spencer’s; M Sathiyanarayanan, senior VP, Lifestyle; and Deepak Deshpande, VP, retail, Bata.

The panellists discussed various aspects of positioning of brand stores at shopping centres. According to Deshpande, to operate in different formats including shopping centres and standalones, the brand has to strategise its moves differently and accordingly. “In standalone formats, the strategy of operations is always different than that in a mall or a shopping centre. We have been following these strategies and have been extremely successful,” he said. Deshpande further informed that Bata has been betting big on their high-street format and is attracting more middle-class consumers.

Speaking on the subject of ‘Retail access: department store buying: The buying process and possibilities’, Sharmila Nadkarani, category head, womenswear, Pantaloons, said that the group’s department store buying process is more focussed on catering to the regional diversity of the nation. Speaking on the same issue, Shiv Daswani, MD, Little Shop, said, “It is difficult for a kidswear brand to make its presence felt in a high street where there are a lot of MBOs. Hence, a niche brand should focus more on strategising its department store buying process strongly.” Anchored by Vishal Mirchandani, CEO, Wadhawan Lifestyle, the panellists in the session included Roshni Bakshi, country head, Disney India, and Gautam Jain, CEO and MD, Jole.

Speaking on the issue of ‘How to bring newness and innovation in the business’, Thomas Yasuda, chief strategy officer and VP of Niknish Retail, said that it is important for niche brands to be innovative for survival in the market. “Kidswear and womenswear brands need to innovate and think out new ideas to survive in the market. The competition is very high these days, and brands need to make their presence felt,” he said.

Rajeev Gupta, CEO, Bizarre, cited examples of innovations undertaken by their group in the initial stages of their operations. Anchored by Anurag Rajpal, apparel head, Spencer’s, the session saw speakers exchanging new ideas for aiding their growth in the market. Speakers included V Vimalan, MD, Clonge, and Subhash Chhabra, president, Globus.

Tim Eynon, CEO, Prozone, anchored ‘Possibilities of joint promotion’, wherein panellists including Vishal Mirchandani of Wadhwan Lifestyle, Dhiraj Dogra of Ansals API, and Anupam Bansal of Liberty agreed that partnership between realtors and retailers is the best way of developing the business of retail in the country.

Niche, and still new

The inaugural session of the second day at Pure and Play saw Vivek Kumar, MD, IRIS, presenting a paper on ‘Women and kids wear market – size, scope and opportunities’. Kumar dealt with various unexplored areas of these two niche markets. Speaking about the school uniform market in India, Kumar said that this is not yet considered to be the best segment of retail today. “Innovation in school uniform market has not happened yet, and so it is still an unsuccessful segment of retail in India,” informed Kumar. He informed that the uniform market, this year, is estimated at Rs 20,000 crore – and a lot of that will be generated from the tier II and III cities.

Making his brand presentation, Thorsten Allenstein, country head, Triumph, said that the company presently operates around 20,000 stores worldwide. “Launched in Germany, the brand has educated women about wearing right sizes of lingerie worldwide, and with a motive to make the Indian women aware about these trends, Triumph was launched in India as well. Since then, we have been hugely successful in this niche market and evolved as the favorite intimatewear brand of the Indian woman,” Allenstein declared.

Sharing his views about the womenswear market in India, Amarjit Singh, head, design, GFO, said, “Womenswear and kidswear are very demanding markets, and there are a lot of opportunities yet to be explored. Retailers should come forward and discuss innovative ideas to help this segment of retail grow substantially.”

In a Q&A session hosted by retail real estate consultant Pranay Sinha, Rakesh Biyani, CEO, Future Retail, said that the supply for womenswear and kidswear products in India is very low. “More brands are the call of the hour as supply for this niche segment is very low. We also need more dedicated manufacturers for developing our private label business,” said Biyani.

Speaking about their successful formats catering to kids and womenswear in India, Biyani said, “Central and Pantaloons have been our successful formats for retailing western womenswear, whereas Big Bazaar has gained more children consumers for us. Besides, women’s footwear in all formats has been very successful.”

In the session titled ‘Stumbling blocks in expanding the kids market’, experts including Vineet Nair, director, Raymonds Apparel (Zap); Samir Sahni, director, Rituwears; and Ajay Nihalani, director, Gini & Jony, spoke about impediments in the kidswear market in India. According to them, the competition is more focused on the price point, and should be altered. Suggesting measures, the experts opined that competition should be focused on design and the volumes of the SKUs. They further agreed that the Indian parents are now becoming more aware of the brands’ value in the market, and retailers should start focusing on the segment. The session was anchored by Raghav Gupta, VP, Technopak.

In their ‘Ode to the Indian Women’, Nikhil Sen, director, Rosebys, and Subhinder Singh Prem, MD, Reebok, presented their deep understanding of the women consumer in India. According to Sen, “The Indian woman is evolving and wants to associate with the best-known brands in the country.” Sen said that Indian women are more motivated by cultural designs, and, thus, cultural designs and patterns should be introduced in products to infuse innovation in this niche category.

Speaking on the same note, Subhinder Singh said that Indian women are no more motivated by value retailing. “‘Buy one, get one’ deals do not any more attract Indian women,” he insisted. Sen also held that value retail, to an extent, is good, but should not be overdone.

Anchored by Debashish Mukherjee, principal, AT Kearney, the final session of the day had Rakesh Biyani, CEO, Future Retail; Sanjay Sahni, MD, Rituwears; and Srinath Sridharan, VP and head, strategic alliances, Wadhawan Retail, discuss the issue of whether ‘Acquisitions can help’ the business of retail in India. They all agreed that the problems of manufacture of ethnicwear products for women in India can be solved by acquiring and owning the manufacturing facility. According to Sahni, “Manufacture of ethnicwear products in India will be more only if it is regulated by the retailer.”

India being a huge a country with varied tastes and cultures, has, indeed, posed an intriguing challenge for organised players in terms of meeting the peculiar demand of the women’s and kids’ market. For a long time, the market has been mostly dominated by menswear.

Retailers realise that personal attention and service to customers cannot be possible without the vendor involvement. So far, retail buyers and merchandisers haven’t got an opportunity to meet enough number of enterprising brands that can partner with retailers to add excitement to the category.

To be sure, the category can expand if the concept of fast fashion comes into play. Continuous innovation, new styling, small stock lots, aggressive POS activity with vendor support, and local service can help.

Chief session

The first session of Day III at Pure and Play saw Lakshmi Menon Bhatia, director, global partnerships, social responsibility, Gap Inc., and Tarun Puri, MD, Nike India, speak about the ‘challenge of quality’ in the business of retail.

Defining quality, Bhatia said, “Creating a right product at a right time with right pricing speaks about the quality of the brand.” Puri insisted, “Quality is in getting the consumer back, and not the product. A brand should focus on judging its quality through its consumers and not make its own assumptions.”

Highlighting their CSR activities, Bhatia said that Gap has been fighting against human trafficking worldwide. For Delhi, the brand has introduced a new technique of manufacturing denims wherein less quantity of water is required.

The next session saw Saloni Nangia, VP, Technopak, discussing the scope and opportunities of brand extension in women’s categories. According to her, this segment of retail in India has a long way to go and is still untapped in many parts of the country.

Addressing the topic ‘Scope in new emerging formats’, experts including Arvind Nair, MD, DLF Retail; V Ramnath, director retail, Nokia; Andreas Gellner, MD, Adidas India; and Pranay Sinha discussed new possibilities of boosting the business of retailing women’s and kids’ wear in the country. The session was anchored by Anchal Jain, founder, Nun, who said that speciality stores for women in India are not growing, and that developers and retailers should work in sync to bring in innovations in the sector.

Speaking on the same issue, Nair said, “The evolution of mall space and mall development in India has just begun, and it will soon see new innovations being introduced to it.” According to Sinha, shopping centres should focus on providing convenient shopping environment to women and children consumers.

The grand finale of the three-day conference, ‘Nokia Images CEO Meet’, saw India’s top fashion and retail CEOs coming together on the stage for an open-house debate on the burning issues impacting the growth of the womenswear and kidswear market. This mega session was anchored by Anuj Puri, chairman & country head, Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, and Jayant Kochar, MD, GoFish Solutions.

Over 30 decision-makers in or related to the women and children wear business, marked and discussed 10 issues that must be addressed for betterment of the industry. The participants included Tarun Puri, MD, Nike India; Marcelo Villagran, MD, Bata India; Thorsten Allenstein, country head, Triumph; Subhash Chhabra, president, Globus; Samir Sahni, director, Ritu Wears; Anchal Jain, founder, Nun; and Aloke Banerjee, CEO, Rosebys.

They were unanimous that creating an ethnic brand for women is not an easy task as the category is dominated by the unorganised sector. They opined that dedicated and trained workforces in the manufacturing sector is one of the critical needs of the hour.

The chiefs also agreed that the industry needs well-researched information on various business aspects, right from studying fits and sizes to creating better shopping destinations and retail environments, to pricing and branding strategies in sync with the Indian consumers’ mindset.

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