Consumers’ wardrobes, in India and across the world, are undergoing a distinct shift – from formal clothing to a greater preference for trendy and casual attire. The following feature takes a look at the Indian market for one of the most commonly used apparel categories over the world – t-shirts.
T-shirts are not just a fashion essential – they are a medium for expression and an ageless insignia of the young and the young at heart. What evolved from undergarments have today become a ubiquitous piece of clothing across the globe. It’s easy to wear, comfortable, stylish, finds space at almost every occasion and hence everybody has one.
The Indian Market
According to the latest reports from India’s leading management consulting firm Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd., the size of the t-shirt market in India is estimated to be at Rs 23,211 crore which is expected to grow at a promising CAGR of ~10 percent over the next decade to reach Rs 61,954 crore by 2027. According to industry reports, in the present scenario, men’s wear holds a key share in the market, followed by women’s wear and kidswear. At the same time, the women’s segment is registering a faster growth that experts attribute to the comparatively lower base of market size and increasing acceptance of casual clothing among women. Also, t-shirts are fi nding a larger space in the Tier -V girl’s wardrobe too.
The Growth Drivers
Like elsewhere in the world, the Indian consumers’ distinct shift from formal clothing to trendy and casual attire has provided a boost to the t-shirt market in the country. Comfort characteristics, easy-care properties, affordability, easy-design options and a casual look are the major driving forces propelling the t-shirt market in India.
“The t-shirt market of India includes knit shirts, polos, knit tops, etc., and is specifically targeted towards the youth segment. One of the main reasons behind its popularity among youth is that teenagers are today’s rational buyers who keep every aspect in their mind before purchasing the t-shirt including colour, design, garment, logo etc., which allows their mind to take over the t-shirt design as their personality, style, and attitude,” says Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland.
Although the youth of the country still remain the core consumer base, the salient features of this comfy apparel has helped the demand trickle down to all age groups today.
“Definitely, consumption of t-shirts is no longer limited to the youth. No doubt, youth remain a huge base of consumers, but owing to its comfort and ease of handling properties t-shirt are popular among middle aged and older consumers,” says Kuntal Raj Jain, Director, Duke.
The emerging trend of occasion specific clothing has given impetus to the growth of casual wear. A peep inside casual wear stores here suggests that t-shirts have a presence that cannot be ignored and also have an ally even among the not-so-fashion-conscious people. The increasing trend of Friday dressing is another driving factor for the t-shirts market in India.
“Increasing acceptance of t-shirts by corporates is one of the most noticeable trend. Even professional services companies, over the years, have relaxed their dress code to allow business casual t-shirts to offi ce. Initially, t-shirts were being permitted only on Fridays, but with time, such relaxations have been extended to all working days by some companies and are expected to be followed by many others,” says Sanjay Vakharia, Director and COO, Spykar Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd.
Experts also believe that shrinking boundaries have been instrumental in bolstering opportunities in the Indian t-shirt market. “The t -shirts market in India has huge opportunities for industry players due to increasing penetration of the category into smaller towns, rural areas, middle aged consumers and women. So, I can say that the t-shirts category is one of the top high-growth categories in men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel in India,” says Kuntal Raj Jain.
Worldwide, t-shirts have always enjoyed special popularity amongst the youth. In a young country like India with a median age of 27 years, this segment harbours immense opportunities for brands and retailers alike. Indian youth seek comfort and style in their clothing, which is better met by t-shirts compared to woven shirts.
A Credence Research report from March 2018 says that India is set to register the highest growth rate for t-shirts sale in the Asia-Pacific region in the next five years. “Presently, the t-shirt market is a promising one. It is a very versatile segment and is now emerging to be the fastest growing categories in India,” says Neha Shah, Head of Marketing, Pepe Jeans.
Talking about the flourishinhg t-shirt market in India, Bobby Arora, Director, Status Quo says, “The t-shirt market is steadily growing in India each year. Brands are recognizing the power of the product and that’s the reason every brand is jumping into the pool to grab its share.”
“Our target audience is the non-earning youth segment yet t-shirts are our highest selling items at the stores currently,” says Harkirat Singh reinforcing the poularity of the category amongst the youth of the country.
Easy availability and lower price of t-shirts are also one of the main reasons of this segment’s popularity. Prices in this category vary from t-shirt to t-shirt and category to category including, round neck t-shirts, polo tees, mercerized cotton tees, organic tees, etc. So the cost of making the product tends to be changing its price. As customer demands more casual wear than other categories, it impacts the price movement too.
“The price points can be as low as Rs 199 for a basic t-shirt, in organized retail the majority of t-shirts are priced between Rs 499 to Rs 999, mid premium brands have t-shirts priced from Rs 1,099 to Rs 2,299. And for premium brands the price could be from Rs 2,599 and can go upto Rs 5,999 and in some cases can be even more. Our price range of t-shirt starts from Rs 699 onwards in our stores till Rs 2,499,” says Saurabh Singh, Head of Design – Menswear, Being Human Clothing.
Like in any other apparel categories, styles, materials and the brand, positioning play a major role in the price points in t-shirts. “In the organised segment, the minimum price point mostly begins at Rs 349 and goes up to Rs 1,299 for the basic tee. The price points go up depending on the style, material and the brand positioning. The choc-abloc unorganised market can see the price dip to as low as Rs 100,” adds Vinay Mehra, Managing Director, Fifty Degree.
The rise of the modern discerning consumer has compelled t-shirt manufacturers and retailers to explore various dimensions of product innovation primarily related to product design, colour selection options and fabric combinations. Although fabric preferences in t-shirts vary with season, cotton and cotton blends are by far the most popular fabrics.
“The most common type of fabric used to make t-shirts is cotton, but it is important to mention that there are diff erent types of cotton out there for use. Combed cotton, organic cotton, pima cotton, slub cotton,” says Sandeep Jain, Executive Director, Monte Carlo.
In addition to cotton t-shirts, the Indian fashion market is also witnessing huge demand for polyester-cotton blended t-shirts. “At Pepe Jeans, the collection of t-shirts largely consists of cotton material but inorder to have a variety and ensure comfort, the fabric is blended with jersey, grindle jersey, piques, mélange, etc., in men’s wear and for women’s wear viscose, crepe and poly linen blends are essential fabrics. Additionally, we also have an athleisure line that has been made with polyester as a key fabric as well as elastane keeping in mind the high performance expectation in terms of function as they are primarily targeted towards gymwear,” says Neha Shah.
Also gaining momentum are man-made fabrics that offer stretch and fluidity. “Cotton will always be popular in India. But now you also see a lot of blends such as cotton/ poly, cotton modal, cotton spandex, etc. People like garments that are comfortable and can be stretched,” reveals Aditya Udani, Owner, Garcon.
T-shirts have indeed come a long way from its rise to popularity in the back in the 50s. Now, trends in t-shirts change faster than seasons. Moreover, tees are no longer a basic item of clothing, but more a means to showcase attitude and beliefs.
“In the last year itself, slogan tees have captured a huge chunk of the market. A noticeable trend that has created waves in the fashion world and is experiencing a surging demand is t-shirts calling out social issues or statements that talk about equality. Much of this comes from the larger global conversation about the need to support social causes,” says Neha Shah.
According to Vinay Mehra, crew necks, solid colours, basic t-shirts, short sleeve t-shirts along with graphic and printed t-shirts are the top favourites in India. Also in demand are roundneck, V-neck, collared, and polo t-shirts along with sportswear, atheleisure, dry fits. “In addition, Henley’s, round neck prints and mix and match, cut and sew collar t-shirts are trending in t-shirts right now,” says Bobby Arora.
Adding to the list, Sanjay Vakharia said “Longline tees, sporty look, slogan tees, abstract graphics and placement tees are the current top trends and designs in knitted t-shirts.”
Printed t-shirts have managed to grab attention of Indian consumers the most. “Print and design of t-shirts nowadays have set a different and hot trend of funny quotes, famous dialogues from various popular soap operas, sarcastic statements, reflect tourist locations, mythological stories, cartoon characters, famous personalities and attractive slogans. Demand of t-shirts with embellishments, neon colors, etc., have gained a lot of attention too among the youth in recent times,” says Harkirat Singh.
The athleisure trend that has been gaining momentum in the last few years has also infl uenced t-shirt trends.
“The althleisure/ sporty look has been trending for quite some time now. Apart from this, there is a strong 90s trend which is coming back into the market. It is moving away from tight fitted t-shirts to more loose/comfort fit,” says Aditya Udani.
Tees designed with movie characters and superhero prints are also having a major trend moment. “Pepe Jeans recently launched the Marvel-Avengers collection, in collaboration with Disney India. This capsule collection was strategically launched a week prior to release of the latest Avengers Infinity War movie. The collection is a mix of cool tees adorned with prints of the iconic and best-loved Marvel characters. It is currently available at leading Pepe Jeans stores across India,” says Neha Shah.
Although the t-shirt market in India is highly fragmented, the increasing brand awareness among the Indian youth is expected to drive the penetration of t-shirt brands into smaller cities and rural India, thus increasing the share of various brands within the t-shirt market. The proliferation of private labels has made t-shirts more aff ordable for value-seeking consumers in smaller cities. Overall, the t-shirt market in India is flourishing and is expected to register bolstered growth in the coming years.