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Conference: Creating and Retailing Winning Fashion in an Omni-Channel Era

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The 15th India Fashion Forum 2015 presented by kick-started on March 18 in Mumbai with the same zeal and fanfare as was expected by the fashion retail fraternity.

The first conference of the tree-day event, “Creating and retailing winning fashion in onmi-chnnel era” started with a welcome note from , Chairman, IFF and MD, Lifestyle International. While welcoming all the eminent speakers and delegates, Lumba started the conference with a promising picture of the retail scenario showing positive sentiments and being optimistic on good economy.

The conference had stalwarts like Bonnie Brooks, Vice Chairman, Hudson’s Bay Company (Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor); , Head – Fashion Business, Snapdeal.com; , CCA and Managing Director, and Dr Thomas Vetter, Senior Vice President and Global Head, Consumer Industries, SAP. This session was modulated by , Founder, Trrain and Shaili Chopra, award winning news presenter and formerly Senior Editor, ET Now.

Justifying the theme of the conference, Shrikhande stated, “Consumers are changing, so retail is changing according to them.” Hence, change is eminent and the brand has to inevitably be onmi-channel.

Commenting on the retail scenario, where brick-and-mortar co-exist with emerging online players and it is believes that the e-commerce segment will usurp the customers from the physical stores, Lumba said that in such a scenario his company is witnessing double-digit growth across all the three formats – Lifestyle, Homecentre and Max.

However, Shrikhande refuted that by saying at present the online is being viewed as disruption by retailers. They are giving more fashion options than the physical stores to the customers and the notion of the ‘so-called’ double-digit growth is slowing down.

Maheshwari, citing examples from his emerging portal, also said that e-commerce is still viewed as an enabler in the retail segment; even though his portal is available to customers in 5,000+ towns and cities, achieving 14 percent sales and witnessing double-digit growth month-on-month.

While, Dr Vetter highlighted, “Online is the winning for the new era. Down the line mobile applications will emerge as the new thing with the ever evolving consumers.”

Brooks, citing examples from her retail experience with Saks Fifth Avenue on how they transformed non-performing retail spaces into profit generating innovative retail studios, she said, “According to a study, more than 70 percent purchases in America start online but do not conclude there.” Hence, a brand should know where they can find their customers; so a brand has to be omni-channel.

Furthermore, Lumba stressed, “The online is an emerging opportunity and the avatar of the online may change from what is it today.”

Citing the example of India, Dr Vetter said that India has an advantage to grow in e-commerce much faster because of the low labour and logistic expenditure.

Although knowing that going omni-channel is the buzz today, Shrikhande showed his dilemma whether to identify online as a boon or bane. As we have far more things to learn and deliver therefore he said, “We need cutting edge technology to progress in the arena to achieve return on cost (ROC) over gross merchandise value (GMV).”

Answering the concern of Shrikhande, Maheshwari said that 75 percent of their buyers are from tier –II and –III cities. Fashion especially the apparel segment is the fastest moving inventory on their site, as a result, 15 percent of the sales at Sanpdeal.com comes from clothing.

Brooks also added, “Initially the size of our online sales was equal to 10 percent of the sales from our flagship stores. Today it has rose to 12-15 percent.”

Concluding the conference, Lumba anticipate an eco-system where the brick-and-mortars and online players can collaborate. The session ended with the note that being onmi-channel is the way foreward else that brand who do not toe the line would perish from the customers view.