Children today have a distinct identity of their own. They have their own opinion of things and are in a hurry to grow up to face the bid bad world outside. Whether through television commercials or through real life experiences, we now see many kids turning into decision makers, brand advocates and, indeed, shoppers. There has been a remarkable change in terms of their speech, appearance and mode of dressing. The increase in the needs and demands of children presents a significant opportunity for textile and apparel players. The high percentage of kids within the population and the number of double income parents, coupled with the increasing exposure to global brands has fuelled the rapid growth of this sector across the mass and premium segments.
At present, menswear, with a 43 per cent share, is the largest segment in the Indian apparel market. However, according to statistics, the kidswear segment is growing faster than menswear. Overall, the kidswear market in India was worth about Rs 37,000 crore (US$ 7.4 billion) in 2011 and projected to grow at over 10 per cent over the next 10 years. Again, girlswear has the higher growth rate of 11 per cent.
Extending portfolio and kidswear focus
Kidswear has evolved from being a niche segment to becoming a part of the ‘family brand,’ with an increasing number of retailers either adding kidswear to their product portfolios or creating kidswear-oriented sub-brands. Even as mid-market and premium brands are expanding to include kidswear in their product range, designers and luxury labels are also showing interest in this segment. Influenced by the mass media and the spike in disposable incomes, affordable luxury and designerwear are the new entrants in the kidswear category. In 2012, India’s first ever kid’s fashion week took place, with designers such as Malini Ramani, Narendra Kumar, Rocky S and Nishka Lulla showcasing their range. Further, in the luxury segment the country’s first luxury, multi-brand kid’s apparel store, Les Petits, opened at the DLF Emporio Mall in New Delhi. The mall is also home to Armani Junior’s recently opened flagship store.
In the organised kidswear market, Gini & Jony, Catmoss, Lilliput and Mom & Me are the leading domestic players while United Colors of Benetton Kids, Disney, Barbie, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara Kids and Mothercare are the major international brands in India. Among the existing kidswear brands, category expansion is seen as a powerful trend. Brands are, therefore, developing categories such as infantwear, formalwear, school uniforms, ethnicwear, swimwear, etcetera and are also adding a wide range of accessories to their merchandise offerings. In addition, brands are also tapping sub-segments within kidswear. For instance, certain brands focus solely on girlswear between the age bracket of 2 to 12 years; others are trying to attract kids by including themes based on popular comic characters.
Expansion to tier-II and -III cities
The trend of buying kids apparel from small stores and unorganised or unbranded markets is gradually fading. Irrespective of the type of the city they live in, parents now prefer branded apparel for their children. As a result, organised kidswear players are percolating down to tier-II and -III cities such as Chandigarh, Pune, Nasik, Varanasi, Dehradun, and Indore. Like in other categories, these cities also provide a lower cost option with lower rentals, while ensuring a large and aspiring middle class consumer base.
Booming online retail of kidswear
With kidswear being one of the fastest growing apparel segments, online retailing of this section is also registering tremendous growth. There are quite a few kidswear-focused e-commerce portals today which target young mothers who are either keen online shoppers or have a paucity of time. The ease of sizing, which is more standardised and varies by age, makes it convenient for mothers to confidently shop online. Also, e-tailers have successfully expanded to related categories such as maternitywear, toys, baby care products, accessories, etcetera.
Increasing demand for organic kidswear
Today, there is a rising awareness about eco-friendly, non-allergic and durable clothing, thanks to which the demand for organic cotton in India is also on the upswing. In Europe, organic cotton clothes enjoy a large share of the kidswear market, but in India, this share is almost negligible. With mothers becoming more cognizant about the impact of chemical dyes on their baby’s skin – which is also a consequence of the relocation of expatriates and the growing band of foreigners in India – there has been definite growth in the organic kidswear market. Grön Stockholm is a key organic kidswear brand which is retailed in India through three stores, two of which are in New Delhi, and the third in Gurgaon.
Most brands are realising that the children of today cannot be ignored considering their independent and almost adult-like purchase behaviour. Today’s children have an increased exposure to the media. They are raised in double-income households, and they too face pressure from equally well-informed peers. All this ensures that children are not only highly fashion-conscious but also they prefer variety in their wardrobe. As regards the growth prospects within the category in India, many international kidswear retailers are trying to divert their focus on India to compensate for the slowing growth in the international markets.
Although there is tremendous potential for growth in this segment, it is clearly not an easy task to cater to the demands of this set of consumers, who not only influence decisions regarding their own apparel but also affect the purchases for adults. This necessitates higher spending by bigger brands on kidswear-related research and development as it is extremely important to have the right product assortment at the right price. While parents do want to spend on kids, they are also conscious that kids will grow older and so look for good value for money when making purchases. For the brands, the key success factors in this highly competitive category are creating differentiation through products, pricing, retail channel, marketing and promotions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amit Gugnani is currently working as the Senior Vice President, Apparel Operations at Technopak. He has over 14 years of experience in apparel manufacturing. His key skills include operations consulting with domain expertise in apparel operations, with on-the-ground experience in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and China.