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Retailer’s Perspective: Rising knitwear popularity in India

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Recipient of Images Most admired Fashion Forward Retailer of the Year and Images Most Admired SOLOx Fashion Professional of the Year at India Fashion Forum 2018, is an emerging fashion retailer. Images BoF talks to , Founder and CEO, to understand the growing popularity of knitwear among the consumers. He shares insights on the bottle-necks in the knitwear industry and how he is planning to create premium zone for emerging categories in knitwear.

Retailer's Perspective: Rising knitwear popularity in India
The growing popularity of casual wear has infused momentum in the knitwear segment

The growing popularity of casual wear has infused momentum in the knitwear segment. Also, the latest penchant towards active wear and athleisure has further bolstered the demand of the segment which now is pushing beyond the metros. Jay Prakash Shukla shares his opinion..

Do you see a upward shift in knitwear based fashion products as compared to woven based products?

The knitwear industry in India is on a double-digit growth trajectory. The industry has witnessed strong growth in past one year. Knitwear currently constitutes 50 percent of the domestic apparelmarket and is growing upwards of 9-10 percent. Today, the knitwear industry is spread across the nation. It used to be Tirupur and Ludhiana earlier, however now, there are good knitwear companies in Bengaluru, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Vapi too.

The overall increasing income of the middle class and their soaring aspirations are changing the dynamics of the apparel market. By 2025, the middle-class consumers, which will form 48.5 percent of total targetable customer base, will contribute to about 55-60 percent share of total apparel market size.

What is the reason for this shift, according to you?

Knitwear has become more appealing and attractive due to the adoption of new creative technologies such as glossy foil prints and digital prints. Technology has also opened up new possibilities such as technical textiles, for products such as fish net, fruit net, which are not only used for apparels but for also many other utility products. Another benefit of technology is the rapid production of garments, with maximum accuracy owing to improved machinery. These garments are easy to maintain and comfortable to wear.

Another prominent reason behind the demand for knitwear is the rising popularity of sportswear, which is expected to increase considerably due to the involvement of people in sports activities because of the lifestyle stress.

What was be the ratio of sales of knitwear to woven five years ago and what is it now?

In 2014-15, knitwear exports from Tirupur touched Rs 21,000 crore (US $3104.3 million) as compared to Rs 18,000 crore (US $2660.9 million) in 2013-14, with a growth rate of 15.52 percent in rupee terms. The share of knitwear exports from Tirupur in India was 44.29 percent. Nearly every international knitwear brand in the world has a strong production share from Tirupur. Some of the world’s largest retailers including C&A, Switcher, Wall-Mart, Primark, Diesel, Army, Tommy Hilfiger, M&S, Fila, Respect, H&M, HTHP, Whale, Nike and Reebok import textile items and clothing from Tirupur. Knitwear exports from India will cross Rs 50,000 crore (US $7388.0 million) in 2018. The youth population in the country also prefers to wear knitwear garments and is also quickly catching up in Tier -II and -III cities.

What do you think are the main bottlenecks of the knitwear industry in India?

Rising cotton and yarn prices is the most immediate one. Strong competition from global brands is another challenge. Another problem is that the industry is fragmented. Processing is one area where the country lags and players can enhance the value of products by applying innovative finishing techniques. Bangladesh today is one of the biggest reasons for decline in India’s knitwear industry. What helps Bangladesh and gives them an edge over India is the cost, their wages costs are lower.

It is able to give cheap products at lower costs. However, the impacts are short term considering the cost of procurement from Bangladesh. With a sound policy direction and support from the government, textile trade in India have the potential to grow beyond Rs 1,00,000 crore (US $14,780 million) by 2020.

What would be total knitwear sales in across your stores?

We have registered a strong demand for knitwear across our stores. For FY 2017-18, the sales figures stood at Rs 43.09 crore. In FY 2016-17, we witnessed about Rs 16.18 crore of sales and in FY 2015-16, we had recorded sales of Rs 4.47 crore.

Do you have a separate merchandising team for sourcing knitwear?

We have a team of people overseeing merchandising and among them the team looks after sourcing for knitwear.

Are returns in knitwear more than, equal to or less than woven based products?

We defi nitely have seen good margins from the knitwear sale compared to woven. Margin of knitwear was 34.04 percent while margin of wovens was 31.66 percent during FY 2017-18.

What are the top 5 selling categories in knitwear in summer across men’s wear, women’s wear and kidswear?

The top 5 selling categories in FY 2017-18 for knitwear in summer have been younger shirts, infant baba suits, junior t-shirts, infant frocks and junior girl frocks.

Apart from this, we have seen good demand for ladies t-tops, ladies leggings, ladies pyjamas, ladies capris, ladies hot pants, men’s shirts, pyjamas, bermudas, and men’s Jamaicans.

What are the top 5 selling categories in knitwear in winter across men’s wear, women’s wear and kidswear?

Infant baba suits full sleeve,younger winter tops, junior boys’ winter t-shirts, full sleeve younger boy’s t-shirts, are the best selling categories in kidswear; sweaters, kurtis, full sleeve t-tops, full sleeve tops, and winterwear tops in women’s wear; winter t-shirts, full sleeve winter t-shirts, full sleeve sweaters, pajamas, and short sleeve sweaters in men’s wear.

What are the fastest emerging product categories in knitwear across men’s wear, women’s wear and kidswear?

I think the fastest emerging categories in knitwear are half sleeve men’s t-shirts, men’s winter t-shirts, ladies t-tops, men’s full sleeve t-shirts and men’s pyjamas.

What are your plans for launching new knitwear categories?

Currently we are not planning to launch any new category in knitwear, however we are planning to create a premium zone for emerging categories.