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Selling fashion affordably?

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‘Fast Fashion’, the term that defines clothing collections which are based on the most recent fashion trends, are very much popular in the West. These trends are captured in designs and manufactured quickly to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current clothing styles at an affordable price. Internationally acclaimed fashion retailers like H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and Primark are known for their trade-mark fast fashion labels but in India the concept has not taken a proper shape yet and more often than not, retailers selling clothes at a low price point are mistakenly considered to be a part of that category.

Of late, India had been witnessing the phase of the entry of an array of international brands, including the labels in luxury fashion and lifestyle products which were increasingly making their business pay off in the Indian retail scenario.

Given the situation, Indians are just getting exposed to different terms and their meaning in the context of fashion and lifestyle. Now the question arises as to what would suit the best for the Indians – the luxury fashion labels or the affordable fast fashion concept.

Currently the business environment both in India as well as internationally is going through an unpredictable situation. In this scenario the company has to respond quickly to the demand of the changing market dynamics to remain successful and stay profitable. In this “can go either way” situation when brands, manufacturers, retailers and the suppliers as well are trying to understand and develop moderate business models that will allow them to weather the storm, IndiaRetailing tried gauge on the subject and invited responses on the question: “India needs affordable ‘fast fashion’ brands rather than luxury fashion labels.”

In answering to the question, 51.61 percent of the respondents posted their vote for luxury fashion brands while 45.16 per cent of the respondents posted a positive answer for fast fashion brand. Amongst all, a mere 3.23 per cent has opted for the option ‘can’t say’.

Further going deeper on a judgmental basis and to get a clear picture of the subject, IndiaRetailing also invited independent views from the brands and retailers based on their experience in the business.

Sharing his opinion on the subject, Sanjay Bindra, MD, Biba India stated that his company would always like to focus on affordable fashion brands rather than luxury labels. “We at Biba feel affordable fashion is the way to go ahead with our business.”

Balvinder Singh Ahluwalia, president, Koutons Retail India Ltd, is also in favour of the statement of Bindra. He stated that in the current scenario, probably the most volatile of all industries is the fashion industry where trends change at an ever increasing pace. The industry is witnessing a revolutionary change among the Indian consumer, giving rise to an astounding retail bang and intense competition. “Increased disposable income, growing economy and more sensitivity towards the choice of products are contributing greatly to the volatility of today’s market,” stated Ahluwalia.

Today, the consumers for luxury brands are scaling down their shopping trends and looking for more reliable fashions and accessories that offer beauty on a budget.
– Balvinder Singh Ahluwalia

Elaborating further, Bindra stated that in India, affordable fashion drives consumption through out the year rather than luxury labels and it gives further reach of the brand and influences the consumer more to the product. “Affordable fashion or affordable fashion consumption is a long term stable story than luxury fashion. Because fashion which keeps on changing,” Stated Bindra.

J Suresh, CEO, Brands & Retail, Arvind Brands, which retails both affordable and luxury labels, echoed that his company has been leveraging on all the opportunities that fast fashion brands offer besides selling fast fashion labels through Megamart stores. “India is a country where most of the people belong to middle class category but they are fashion conscious at per with the recent trends flaunting globally. We at Megamart stores keep this aspect in focus and try to offer affordable fashion brands to our customers,” stated Suresh. However, he also opined that it is equally important to offer luxury fashion brands to those who can afford to buy them and thus to cater to the demand of that particular section of customers, the company sells luxury labels through other formats of retail of the brand.

Rajan Malhotra, president, Retail Strategy, Future Group said that in terms of luxury brands, India is a very niche market. Other than five star hotels, the concept of luxury does not have enough space. So, as per company policy, Future Group is selling affordable fashion labels and lifestyle brands, and not the luxury in true sense of the term.

Ahluwalia at Koutons pointed out that these days consumers have become quite matured and they always look for the quality at a price that is reasonable so that they can adapt themselves to the rapid changing trends and yet do not feel the heat on their wallets. According to him, that is one of the major reasons for the paradigm shift of target audience of the luxury market towards more affordable but trendy fashion labels.

He further stated that consumers today are searching for accessible designs that look good but won’t break the bank. “While they might still splurge for special occasions but those are rare moments,” added Ahluwalia. He feels that today the consumers for luxury brands are scaling down their shopping trends and looking for more reliable fashions and accessory lines that offer beauty on a budget. “The reason that has motivated the Indian consumers for ‘fast affordable’ brands rather than luxury fashion labels is also because of the necessity of the time and situation,” concluded Ahluwalia.

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