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India’s Most Progressive Fashion Retailers in N.E.W.S. at IFF 2014

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As the gates of Bombay Exhibition Centre in Goregaon, Mumbai opened to the magnum opus of the Indian fashion business, INDIA FASHION FORUM (IFF), this morning, hundreds of fashion retailers from North, East West, South (NEWS) India, from Kashmir to Tamilnadu and from Gujarat to Assam, were seen exchanging notes at the reception and gearing themselves up for two action-packed days ahead where they will find solutions to many of their burning issues, generate fresh ideas and make many new alliances. The session held in partnership with men’s clothing brand Cool Colors.

Announcing a path-breaking industry programme for India’s most progressive retail entrepreneurs, Amitabh Taneja, Chief Convenor of India Fashion Forum (IFF) said that the biggest excitement for fashion retailers will be the announcement of IFA Fashion Forward League. The league, which will eventually have 100 of India’s most vibrant fashion retail entrepreneurs – other than the corporates – will see 25 inductions at IFF 2014 with a special programme for them, including a ‘Retail Manage Mentor’ masterclass, a brainstorming session with key stakeholders and felicitation at the grand IMAGES Fashion Awards (IFA)” on January 18th .

Endorsing the importance of IFF, Sanjay Sahni, MD of North India’s most aggressive fashion chain Ritu Wears BigLife says, “IFF has inspired many retailers like us to think big. In fact, I remember that many on the verge of closing shop came to IFF in 2002 and 2003. Today, they run large chains of MBOs, department stores and single brand franchise stores — some in their respective regions and some even nationally! Every independent retailer – be it from a metro or from cities like Lucknow, Guwahati, Ranchi, Goa or Coimbatore – once he came to IFF, was never again intimidated by a large department store opening next door. Most of them have opened store after store, boosted efficiency and delivered more to their respective consumers. As we plan our expansion beyond North and Central India, it will be imperative to exchange notes with our fellow retailers and find many more new friends at the forthcoming IFF.”

Shamsher Singh Hura, a franchisee & distributor in Orissa of premium lifestyle brands, who launched an experiential concept ‘All that Jazz’, one of India’s most dynamic and talked-about fashion stores, says, “Charles Frederick Worth is known to be the first designer to have had his label sewn into the garments that he created, and very much dictated what his customer wore. Since then fashion has metamorphosed from a mere label sewn onto a garment to a connection with the consumer — emotional, aesthetic, or both. In a country like India where tastes and preferences diverge within city limits, where income levels could be opposites from one lane to the other, where climatic conditions go to extremes from one state to another, it is imperative that consumer is decoded very clearly. And what better platform to do this than IFF, where industry stalwarts meet, discuss and decode the future of fashion in a dynamic environment that demystifies the complex market that is India!”

Celebrating the 14th anniversary of IFF, at the event, fashion brands will salute outstanding performers in the business of fashion – all those who contributed to the growth of their fashion and retail business in India. “Excellence in brand delivery has a lot to do with the retailers who actually take the brands to the customers across the country and hence we join IMAGES to empower them with knowledge and ideas and recognise the outstanding achievers at the IMAGES Fashion Awards,” says J Suresh, Managing Director and CEO at Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd and Arvind Retail Ltd. Together with India’s top 20 fashion companies, including Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, Arvind Brands, Raymond Apparel and 30 leading brands, IMAGES has shortlisted India’s most progressive retailers, franchisees & distributors for induction to IFA Fashion Forward League at IFF 2014.

The league inductees will also join IFF special meetings with top consulting organisations, funds, retail IT vendors and shopping centres to help them to assess the true worth of their concepts, present it to key stakeholders and find the right partners to join them for their business growth.

IFF 2014 took the initiative of connecting with over 2000 retailers all over the country to identify retailers that have an appetite for fast-paced growth to lead the next phase of market expansion. Why should the future of fashion retail in India depend on only a handful of national or international retailers? Why should we fear Indian traditional and family-run retailers losing out to multinational retailers? With great local understanding, personal customer connect, long standing trust with much higher trading densities – all key yardsticks to succeed in any retail format or environment – our local and regional retailers have performed far better than many corporate chains. Many even are preferred as anchors in malls over national department stores. They are getting into franchising, distribution and licensing. They are building their own labels. In fact some of them are themselves building malls. Prestige Group started as a fashion store but today thousands of stores find place in their malls.

But, it’s still important to know this: What’s the right path of expansion for traditional retailers? Why have only a handful of local retailers so far succeeded in expanding beyond their traditional geographies? These and many other soul-searching questions will be deciphered and answered at IFF 2014 over today and tomorrow.

Regional Retailers: Key to Next Level of Fashion Growth Story

Indian fashion and lifestyle industry has reached a point where it needs to think out-of-the-box. The real growth will happen only if at least 500 more malls come up in India’s emerging markets and fashion drives the excitement with some 2500 department / large format stores and 15,000 vanilla stores taking up space in these malls. But, how that will happen?

Undoubtedly, while MNCs and Indian majors will continue to transform the face of Indian retail, capitalising on the true potential of the market will need a lot more than just what a handful of national developers and retailers can collectively achieve. Solo brand outlets too are finding the going tough in new markets, which clearly indicates that new markets cannot be developed by opening a brand outlet in isolation. Perhaps, the need of the hour is to help traditional retailers across the country to work on space expansion — transforming their MBOs to modern department stores – and thus giving a wider choice to customers and inciting them to shop more.

Talking about the scope for retailers, Darpan Kapoor, Vice Chairman of the Chandigarh-based Kapsons says, “Branded fashion did not have a sizable market in upper-north India — until we realized that it was not that the customer was not ready, it was more to do with how we communicated and presented fashion to them. IFF has indeed been instrumental in showcasing the science of fashion retail – bringing global visionaries, brands and benchmark concepts in retailing and customer delivery. At IFF there will be a big contingent of retailers, distributors and franchisees from all regions, and we will unveil the true scope of the upper-north India market to all potential partners.”

IFF Retail Mentor Series: Fashion Business Is Changing. Change The Way You Do Business.

The IFF retail mentor leadership module will take the IFA Fashion Forward League inductees through the trends: Demographic Changes, Multichannel and Mobile commerce, Personalized Marketing, The Distribution Revolution and Emerging Retail Business Models. Each trend is powerful on its own, and collectively they will redefine what it takes to be a successful retailer. Mentors of the management class, including Mr. Arvind Singhal, Chairman of Technopak and Mr. B S Nagesh and veterans from all spheres of the fashion retailing domain, will disseminate the knowledge, skills and business values these retailers need, to succeed in this exciting but competitive industry.

The IFF Grand Finale – always popular for its content, packed house and active audience participation — this year presents the entire fashion industry the opportunity to brainstorm with IFA Fashion Forward League retailers. “To be in the N.E.W.S. we must CHANGE the game,” says Bijou Kurien, formerly Chief Executive– Lifestyle, Reliance Retail. “Regional retailers have played a key role in the retail development of their markets. They reign supreme when other national retailers fail in their markets,” he adds.Kurien will also discuss his views on what marks the success of a regional retailer, the traits that make them successful when others fail, the impediments for regional retailers in becoming successful national retailers, recreating their local success across the country, how these retailers adapted to the changing consumer, how have they expanded to malls and other non-traditional market spaces when their origins were on the high street.

“It is an effort to facilitate an out-of-the-box brainstorming session to explore ideas and alliances for the next phase of growth,” says the Expert Engagement Facilitator for the management master class and the Grand Finale, B S Nagesh, Founder, TRRAIN.

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