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North India's Retail Icons: Masters of Think Global, Act Local

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North India is rewriting the theory of modern retail growth in the country. Not only metropolitan cities from the region but even the small towns have the immense potential to emerge as ultimate retail destinations.
If we turn back the pages of history, we will read about a North-based biscuits company, Bakemans Industries, which gave industry stalwarts like Britannia and Parle Products sleepless nights with its aggressively priced offerings during the early nineties. This regional brand held a market share of 13 per cent until it decided to go national. That is the power any regional player can have!
Speaking on a regional brand’s unqiue connect with local psychographics, Benu Sehgal, VP – Mall Management, DLF Place Saket says: “Despite the flood of international brands, regional players have their unique positioning in overall mall establishment that no developer can deny. A+ international brands are crowd-pullers, but you can no longer ignore the local brands; though, their presence could be mere 5 to 10 per cent.”
Sehgal also informs how North India-based brands Charming Sarees and Sweetchildofmine are doing pretty decent in terms of overall sales square feet. Citing the example of Sweetchildofmine, a regional kids’ partywear retailer, she added: “We gave them a temporary store for six months. We studied their clientele and then gave them a permanent shop. The brand attracts wonderful clients.”
Retailing in North India: Key features
The north of the country has seen a wide shift in its purchasing power as well as growing shift from the local kirana shops to departmental stores, where the customers can find everything without having to go to different places. Speaking on the same, Vaibhav Singhal, MD & CEO, Savemax said: “These days, customers from tier-I and -II cities, such as Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Dehradun and Ambala, etc., do an extensive research before purchasing a product. This has led the brands and the marketers to influence the customers by offering them a variety of options in various forms resulting in emergence of a number of retail formats throughout the country.”
The brand Savemax has four retail stores in four cities of North India. The cities include Delhi, Indirapuram (Ghaziabad), Karnal and Kundli.
“Customers get highly influenced by the image of the retail outlet, its attributes, product range, variety, services, employee’s behaviour, décor and marketing strategies. Today’s customers do not only focus on the purchase but they are equally concerned with the external as well as internal environment of the retail format. Their pre-purchase experience is highly influenced by family members, friends and channels of communication, and not just competitive offerings. Moreover, needs, perceptions and experiences of customers vary to a great extent, which a marker needs to identify and make offerings accordingly,” Singhal adds.
Adding to this, Narinder Singh, Managing Director, Numero Uno Clothing says: “The northern markets have traditionally been more fashion and brand conscious compared to the eastern or southern regions, and this market has also seen the rise of many domestic brands.
Change in lifestyles, peer pressure and increasing buying power have given a boost to the consumption levels. The acceptance of denims amongst women and consumers from tier-II and -III cities has helped in expanding the market size. Although we target customers between the age group of 17 and 35, some of our customers do fall under a higher age bracket.”
The brand Numero Uno has 185 EBOs with an added presence in 500 MBOs and 65 LFSs and hypermarkets. In total, Numero Uno has a presence in 288 cities across various towns and cities of India.
“The customers now want to look younger and denims have always been associated with the youth. A couple of years ago, boot-cuts and low-waist baggy jeans were considered cool but now straight and slim-fit jeans are in trend. With girls, skinny jeans continue to be the hot favourite, although there is a latent demand for the boot cuts. Jeggings are also becoming popular with women because of their comfort factor. Ripped jeans are more acceptable today than they were 10 years ago,” Singh notes.
“Earlier, blue and black were the only preferred colours in denim but customers today are also experimenting with brown, green, grey and even red. They have become extremely choosy about the fits, so basis the market feedback we are now offering as many as 6 fits for men and 3 for women,” he adds.
Says Supreti Tyagi, Manager – Business Strategy, Monsoon Salon & Spa: “North India has seen a lot of change in consumer profile and preferences. Females who earlier used to spend Rs. 500 in a month on their looks are now ready to shell out more moolah. There was a time when females used to go for a makeup only on their wedding day, but today they get a full makeup done even for small get-togethers. This reflect that they also have become beauty conscious.”
Customers’ evolution
Talking about the customer’s involvement in this aspect, Sahil Malik, Managing Director, Da Milano says: “The North Indian customer is more contemporary in fashion and luxury shopping choices. They are more flamboyant and like to express power and prestige through high-end brands, hence they shop luxury items more than any other region in India. Though, Delhi and Punjab are very cosmopolitan. The preferences and choices have been evolved with time; the spending capacity has increased over the past few years.”
Da Milano is present in 13 cities with more than 52 stores.
Sharing his thoughts, Lalit Agarwal, CMD V-Mart Retail says: “As you are aware, India is a country of the youth. Overall, the population is more aware today than it was ever before. Our consumer includes mainly the young aspirational class, which has the capacity as well as the willingness to spend. The young class aspires to look good wherever they are based – either in the metros or in tier-II or -III cities.” V-Mart currently has 108 outlets in 91 cities.
According to Asheeta Chhabra, Head – Business Development, Chhabra 555 Fashions, the attitudinal shift of Indian consumers in choosing an outfit for them, evolution of the Indian retail market and revamping of ongoing trends in the retail world are a few factors that have been influencing the consumer profile and preferences of the consumers in the northern region.
“Ethnicwear has gained a mainstay in the north region of India and we are also leaving no stone unturned to cash the ever-evolving market trends. The consumer profile has changed drastically in the recent times as they ask for fusion-themed lehengas, readymade suits without dupattas, and kurtis with a variety of conventional hemlines. Their preferences are now based on the contemporary clothing options that they see around or perhaps based on the trends that they see on the silver and small screens. In other words, their preferences are influenced by the evolving trends of the fashion industry, which has become fresh and innovative with the budding and established designers around,” Chhabra adds.
On the other hand, Ayush Mehra, CMD, Study By Janak says: “As a regional player and being into bespoke, we have seen people being aware of price and wanting the right service. We have seen major brands in brick and mortar moving into bespoke as service being a differentiation factor. Consumers in the ready-to-wear category have narrowed down on their major brand preferences and are using e-commerce discounting to get their brands at a really unheard of price and keep shopping for variety. E-commerce has changed the way the youth shop. Consumers are aware of brands, designs, fashion, etc., which is just a click away now.”
Growing significance of tier II and III cities from the region
According to Singh of Numero Uno: “It is significant since it helps us tap the growing demand coming from tier-I and -II cities. They are more brand conscious now than before. We try to tap good high-street sites or target upcoming malls in cities that throw a good opportunity for us at present and in future. It is quite critical to be present in locations with higher footfalls in tier-II and –III cities, or else a brand’s long-term survival becomes difficult. Customers in tier-II and -III cities are now quite comfortable shopping online, so we have ensured our presence on all leading e-commerce sites apart from our very own e-store –”
Adding to this, Malik says: “In tier-II and -III cities too, people are becoming fashion conscious, so the market is equally attractive. Also rural areas are a big market as the youth there is increasingly becoming aware of fashion. Consumers in small cities want to splurge on luxury goods. We have observed growing awareness among people about luxury brands. There is huge aspiration among the people in these cities, which the retailer has to tap.”
As per Agarwal, most brands have now started moving towards tier II and III locations. “This move shows that there is a good business. We at V-Mart always had the faith to move in these untapped cities,” he adds.
Speaking in the same vein, Mehra quipped: “We are already present in two tier-II cities and have shortlisted various other tier-II markets in north and west regions. We follow a model of expansion depending on various factors. Tier-III has not been a target market yet.”
“Tier II and III markets in the northern region have gained a huge momentum when it comes to beauty and fashion. People in cities like Chandigarh, Lucknow, Agra, etc. are becoming fashion conscious with each passing day and are ready to spend a lot on their looks.”

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