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Dec, 21 2009

Kidswear to family stores

Kids today have emerged as an independent customer group with their own specific needs and demands. The demand for branded apparel is on the rise owing to children becoming more fashion conscious and parents willing to satisfy their demands due to a rise

Kids today have emerged as an independent customer group with their own specific needs and demands. The demand for branded apparel is on the rise owing to children becoming more fashion conscious and parents willing to satisfy their demands due to a rise in their purchasing power.

This has created sufficient space in the market for entry of new players. Branded kidswear garment industry is estimated to be 3,500 crore market, growing at a double digit rate.

Realising the scope in kidswear market, brands like Lilliput, Gini & Jony, Ruff Kids and Catmoss ventured exclusively into kidswear. Lately, brands like Raymonds, Koutons, Numero Uno and Spykar too forayed into this segment through their brands Zapp, Koutons Juniors, NUJNS and OYO, respectively. Explaining the kind of market research that the company did before venturing into kidswear, Balvinder Singh Ahluwalia, President, Koutons Retail India Ltd says, “We did a perception study on our existing customers followed by direct discussion on the kidswear range with our walk-in customers. This helped us freeze on the idea to start with the kidswear section. Further, we established this section once we started taking inputs from the international markets regarding the designs and colours in trend and adapting them according to Indian requirements.” 


Points to ponder

The number of garments which kids consume is far higher owing to their lesser usage period. Increasing brand consciousness makes it mandatory for parents to plan whether they want branded or non-branded garments for their children on various occasions. Another deciding factor is the affordability of a branded product, which has increased immensely in the past few years. “It’s more a state of mind. If the customer feels that the brand delivers well, he buys it. Second factor is the higher price point, when the customer knows that the brand is delivering superior value for money, he pays for it,” says Badal Chowdhry, CEO, Numero Uno Clothing Ltd.

Finding potential in the kidswear segment, Raymond’s kidswear brand Zapp, which is operational through 30 stores, recently introduced active wear and swim wear in its product line. To address the growing demand of this sector, brands like Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Arrow and Allen Solly too have either ventured or are planning to enter the kidswear segment. All these players follow the franchise route to expand.


Family stores more familiar now

Shopping in India is a complete family experience. So a store offering apparel for men, women and kids is likely to see more footfalls. Therefore, most franchisors catering to adults have begun to offer kidswear range to provide a wholesome solution to the family. Koutons started as a men’s wear brand but on realising the market potential, soon ventured into women wear and kidswear. Today, Koutons Family Store is a one-stop shop for all the apparel needs of the family. Koutons is expanding its family stores through the franchise model, which is paying rich dividends to the company and its franchisees. Talking about how their venture into kidswear has increased the purchase per person, Ahluwalia avers, “In case of Koutons, it is our family stores that carry our kidswear collection. Very often when parents come in to shop for themselves, they end up purchasing clothes for their kids too, leading to more purchases per person. Selling kidswear, especially along with adult wear, is an investment which is sure to turn into high returns to both the franchisors and franchisees.”

Numero Uno sells its kidswear through 16 Numero Uno Senior stores and has one exclusive NUJNS outlet. It plans to follow both formats in future too. Talking of this mixed use of formats, Chowdhry claims, “It varies from location to location. Bigger/mature markets which are exposed to brands for a longer time would prefer single solutions but if you move to place largely dominated by unbranded stuff, one-stop solution will be more desirable.”

However, he admits that NUJNS, which caters to the age group of 6 to 16 years, prepares the schoolgoing kids for Numero Uno Seniors. Spykar, too, follows mixed format to retail its children wear garment line, OYO, which is an obvious extension of business for the company.


Added benefits

The existing franchisors offering apparel solutions to adults have some obvious inherent advantages if they plan to venture into kidswear too. They have the advantage of producing the kidswear range from their existing manufacturing facility. Numero Uno and Koutons manufacture their kidswear range out of the same manufacturing facility which manufactures its adult wear by increasing its capacity. Since they have the experience of the apparel industry, they know the tricks of the trade as well. Voicing similar thoughts, Sanjay Vakharia, Director, Spykar Lifestyles Pvt Ltd, informs, “Coming from the same industry, we did not require any market research. Rather our insight is quite honed by now in certain ways.”

Existing franchisors can begin retailing their kidswear offering at their existing stores only to get a public opinion about their brands and can save the real estate cost too. Once the customers start recognising their brands, they can go for exclusive stores as well. They also have the advantage of having their existing customers shop for their kids too, thereby easily saving on their marketing initiatives also to some extent. Another benefit is in terms of franchisees, as their existing franchisees can retail their kidswear brands in the existing stores or take up the franchise of standalone store as well.


Confronting challenges

Offering both adults wear and kidswear brands has some challenges too, as the franchisors cannot compromise on quality and have to produce quantity as well. “The biggest challenge is to convince the customers to buy branded garments instead of non-branded. The number of sales keeping units that you need to provide to offers a variety of tops and bottoms to both boys and girls also comes as a challenge,” explains Chowdhry. To provide ample options to kids, Numero Uno and Koutons introduce a new collection four times a year, i.e., for every season. However, Spykar introduces a few add-ons every month to serve the varied needs of these tiny yet mighty consumers. Quality is of utmost important when you are serving small kids who need more tender stuff. Koutons uses 100 per cent cotton for its kidswear range and azo free dye as per the European standards. Besides, inventory management to have stable supply chain is also a big issue.

Vakharia says, “The effort is more strenuous while offering clothes to children. The work is exacting and less rewarding.”

In case of apparel for children, two different sets of sensibilities need to be satisfied. There was a time when only the tastes and preferences of the parents were to be satisfied. Today, kids have an equal say, if not more.

“Managing these two sets of sensibilities is what makes children’s apparel both challenging and interesting,’ avers Ahluwalia.


Extending business

Adding on to the existing product portfolio is very important when one endeavors to grow. Hence, moving from kidswear to adult wear or vice-versa is a natural extension of business. However, precautions are to be taken in terms of pricing, quality and variety of kids garments. Affordable pricing is important, especially when it comes to kidswear since kids outgrow their clothes very quickly. Unless superior quality is offered, brand promise remains unkept. Variety and additions with the change of season is a must to cater to the all time needs of the customers. Besides that innovation and adventure always attract footfalls. Recently, Zapp introduced igloo-shaped trial rooms to tap these tiny customers.


Kidswear retailing is at a nascent stage but a sound understanding of the market must be acquired before jumping into it. It is important that players don’t enter the market blindly in a hurry to grab their share.

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