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Small Clothes, Big Business: India witnesses boom in kidswear retail

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The days when fashion was the exclusive preserve of adults are long gone. The millennial culture provided kids’ fashion with the much needed boost and unveiled the true potential of the segment to the fashion retail fraternity worldwide. Especially in India, while the sector was just non-existent till a few years ago, it has now embossed itself as the most propitious segment of the Indian fashion industry – with even a dedicated annual fashion show to its name.

“While the fashion industry is still dominated by the menswear segment, it’s the kids’ fashion segment that has registered the fastest growing rate. The Indian kidswear market in 2017 was estimated at Rs 66,904 crore accounting for 20 percent of total apparel market of the country. Kidswear is expected to grow at CAGR of 8.1 percent to reach Rs 145,445 crore by 2027, whereas men’s wear and women’s wear are expected to grow at relatively lesser CAGRs of 7.5 percent and 7.6 percent respectively.
“It’s a huge market today,” says Sharad Venkta, MD & CEO, Toonz Retail.

“The estimated size of kidswear in India is Rs 70,000 crores and the kids apparel market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of over 12 percent during 2019-2021,” he adds.

The kidswear market in India has witnessed seismic changes in the last few years – both product and consumer wise. Parents now exhibit a considerable brand awareness and inclination towards high quality apparel products for their kids. This has even trickled down to the kids as well, who have now emerged as a new, independent buyer group altogether.

“As families travel more and have more awareness of western markets, the tastes of parents and kids are changing. Movies/music and easy to access mass media platforms like youtube, etc., are also influencing their tastes,” says Sally Wells, Senior Buying Manager – Kidswear, Westside.

Growth Factors

The kidswear market has been propelled chiefly by the increase in the income and changing lifestyle of modern parents – parents want their kids to stay with the trends. This has given immense opportunity to retailers at all levels and geographical regions to expand their market. Changes in the composition and structure of Indian families have also been instrumental in boosting the growth of this industry. The rise of the nuclear family in urban India has resulted in increased purchasing power, with parents willing to shell out anything for their children.

With changing lifestyles, there is also a need-based demand stemming from more frequent socialising, wanting to have children look the best for photographs on social media and for when friends and family come to meet and greet the new baby. Doting grandparents, extended family and friends are equally excited about pampering the little ones and have been instrumental in bolstering the growth of the market.

Another critical thrust in the kidswear market came in the guise of e-commerce. E-commerce helped brands across the sector by making them available across all demographies and geographies. “We are very pleased with the growth we have witnessed with the rise of e-commerce. It plays a crucial role in making our products available to consumer across India at their convenience, allows us to showcase the breadth of products and amplifies our reach across the country. The channel helps us with better range planning and therefore we are able to offer a larger assortment of products,” says Sanjeet Mehta, Executive Director, Disney India.

Propensity Towards Brands

Traditionally, the trend was basic functional life-style kids’ apparel dominated by the unorganised sector, but today, the growing trend and brand awareness among parents and kids has resulted in an increased inclination towards branded clothing. “Growing trend and brand awareness stemming from international travels and the growth of social media has led to increased consciousness and more awareness of global fashion trends, making parents more inclined to buy branded clothing for their little one,” says Megha Uppal, Creative Director, Bambiola.

“Generally in India, the trend was that most people prefer buying functional kids’ apparel rather than branded ones.
Children’s garments were usually purchased from small stores and from street shops, while branded garments were only bought by the very high status families. This trend is gradually changing and the market for branded kids’ clothing is growing. As the social status and buying behavior of parents is changing, so is kids’ behavior and hence, they act as influencers with choices of their own,” Sharad Venkta.

As per an ASSOCHAM report released in 2018, the propensity for brands in kidswear has transcended the boundaries of the metro and Tier I cities and have now percolated deep into Tier II and III cities like Dehradun, Ludhiana, Pune, Nashik, Indore, Varanasi, etc., as well. The Indian kidswear market is now rife with an endless list of mega brands offering dedicated kids lines.

The opportunities in the Indian kidswear industry has also attracted a long list of international bigwigs, all who have rushed in for their share of the market. Even Indian designers like Masaba Gupta, Archana Kochhar, Jatin Kochhar, Ritu Beri have ventured into this segment in the recent past.

Segment Categories

The kidswear market is segmented into boys’ and girls’ wear, with the market being slightly skewed towards boys wear owing to 53 percent boy’s population for age group 0 to 14. The boys’ wear market is diversified with various categories like t-shirts, shirts, denims, bottom wear, ethnic wear, winter wear and uniforms etc. For obvious reasons uniforms, t-shirts, shirts and bottom wear are the dominating categories, together contributing around 80 percent of the total boys wear market.

The Indian girls’ wear market mainly comprises bottom wear, ethnic wear, t-shirts, shirts, denims, dresses, winter wear and uniforms, etc. Uniforms and ethnic wear are the two largest categories within this segment contributing around 53 percent of the girls’ wear market. Around 60 percent of India’s population is rural, thus dominance of ethnic wear in rural India contributes to its major share in the girls wear segment.

More recently, changing lifestyles and young parents’ propensity to splurge on their children has fueled the growth of a new category within kidswear – infant wear.

“We treat kidswear in two age groups — newborn to 3 years and 3 years to 12 years. Infant wear, the newborn to 3 year old segment includes a wide range of baby basics like jabla and pyjamas, rompers, dresses, sets, innerwear, bath-towels, blanket, comforters, along with accessories like bibs, socks, gloves, caps, napkins, etc,” explains Sharad Venkta.

With India being home to an estimated 120 million babies in the 0-4 years age group, fashion industry sentinels believe that the rate of growth of the infant wear market in India is drawing parallels to the kidswear market.

Evolving Consumer Preferences

The most prominent change seen in the kidswear market today is the growing awareness about the material being used. The fact that materials used need to be soft, long-lasting and easy to wash and maintain are the chief concerns of anyone wanting to make a wise purchase. This is another reason behind the growing inclination towards western outfits – they seem to be perfect for their children’s active lifestyle by offering durability, practicality and convenience.

Fabrics such as cotton based denims, georgette, rayon and crepes are among the preferred options. Natural materials such as cotton and linen are all set to be the highlights of summer lines designed for children.

Even, organic and eco-friendly apparel are enjoying increasing demand in this segment. “Urban parents are increasingly committing themselves to ethical and environmental issues, leading to an increased demand of eco-friendly infant wear. Consumers also perceive buying organic as a reflection of their status and personality, which has led to an increased demand in recent years. Premium eco-friendly products like organic cotton, soy and bamboo are not only luxurious but also have some incredible inherent properties of value to the parents wanting the best for their baby,” says Megha Uppal.

“As the trend is moving towards more organic and natural fibres, we are exploring to provide options to customers who are eco conscious. Challenges occur in maintaining economical products since garments are more premium with sustainable fabrics,” adds Sharad Venkta. However, organic kidswear is yet to be a main stream stay as of yet, with experts citing premium prices and lack of available as serious impediments. A fair section of experts, including Sally Wells, believes that the trench will catch up soon. “There aren’t challenges in adapting to more sustainable ranges for kids. The sustainable strategy of the business can be implemented in kidswear in the same way as adult clothing,” she states.

Kids – The New Consumers

The youngest generation of today is no more like their erstwhile peers. They are righteously more demanding and will no longer take just functional outfits or hand-me-downs from elder siblings. They are very aware of their needs, prevailing trends and have their own say when it comes to buying decisions. “We see that about from 3 years, kids decide what they like and what they don’t. They influence buying decisions and many of them have their own requirements – like most kids want to look like their older siblings, so we cater to that,” adds Sally Wells.

This evolution of kids as consumers have changed the way brands perceived and operated in this space and has given way for newer trends – the Mini Me trend and character-based apparel being the foremost.

Character Licensing

Globally, licensing and merchandising (L&M) is a large business. The Walt Disney Company is the largest character licensor in the world with US$45 billion in character merchandising retail sales in 2013. So much so that there used to be a time, when licensing in kids’ apparels was synonymous with only few global characters like Donald Duck, Garfield, Mickey Mouse etc.

“Disney has been a pioneer in India too, in character licensing and we have products across varied categories which include toys, fashion, stationery, home solutions, publishing, food, health and beauty and consumer electronics. Our kids wear segment cuts across apparel (t-shirts, shirts, dresses, trousers, caps, jackets), footwear (shoes, clogs, flip-flops) and accessories (jewellery, socks, watches),” says Sanjeet Mehta.

But now, the Indian markets has opened up to a lot of regional characters as well, including Chhota Bheem, Mighty Raju, Motu Patlu, etc.

Character driven apparel monetise the emotional connect of kids with their favourite characters like Chhota Bheem, Tom & Jerry, Peppa Pig, etc., and hence has been an instant hit.

“Our timeless stories and engaging characters have entertained and engaged kids and families everywhere. Character affinity is one of the key factors that drives the buying decision. Fans of all ages have great loyalty towards their favorite stories and characters,” says Sanjeet Mehta.

Initially, although most brands and licensees simply imprinted the character on apparels to reproduce in multiplicity, brands are now taking a step ahead and have evolved the concept by introducing apparels inspired with the look and feel of popular characters. In its entirety, the trick in licensing is not to just take a character and put it on the apparel. It is to combine and translate the character’s DNA with the latest trend in fashion and gain the mass appeal.


In this digital age, small clothes have proven to be big business. Owing to the growth potential of this market segment, many international brands have entered India in last few years. With emergence of e-commerce, earlier hitherto markets have opened up, thus boosting growth of kidswear in India. As kids are graduating into consumers earlier than before, brands now increasingly want to shimmy up to them, engendering hitherto unseen growth opportunities for all players across the sector; right from brand owners, suppliers, to distributors and retailers. With the increasing competition, success has to be a combination of high quality, good design and right value for money product.

(With inputs from Rosy)

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