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Sep, 10 2010

NICHE SEGMENTS UP FOR GRABS

NOW buying a branded plus size dress from your neighbourhood market or lingerie of a US or German brand in your very own city will soon be a reality.

NOW buying a branded plus size dress from your neighbourhood market or lingerie of a US or German brand in your very own city will soon be a reality. This comes as a result of international brands eyeing the Indian market which is moving up the growth ladder. The three untapped sectors of plus size, inner wear and designer wear, are at the threshold of a revolution.

The key drivers that have provided the much-needed boost to these untapped areas are scalable and profitable retail models, rapid evolution of new-age young Indian consumers, partnering among brands, retailers, franchisees, investors and malls, changing lifestyle, hefty pay cheques, urbanisation and brand awareness. Domestic players are taking on the foreign brands with their world-class strategies and sound support system to strengthen the franchise set-ups. Here is a dissection of the three sectors separately to help you decide on your pick.

Innerwear: Inside out

Lingerie has become an essential part of the wardrobe. The slight dip seen during the economic slump is over now and the segment is reviving. The industry witnessed a growth of 15-20 per cent in the past two years. The market preference is fast moving towards branded innerwear, be it men's or women's. Global players have drastically changed the outlook of the innerwear industry in India. The size of the branded inner wear industry is around Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 crore, of which around Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 crore is in the women segment. As per FIHL research report, there are more than 1,000 lingerie brands present in India, but only 200 are active nationwide.

International players share 25 per cent of the organised lingerie market. Influx of foreign brands has made the domestic players realise the huge potential of partnering with the global luxury brands. Characterising the luxury segment in this sector are either foreign brands or joint ventures of Indian manufacturers with international brands.

Lovable, Enamor, Triumph and Jockey have successfully established themselves as premium innerwear brands. Others like Etam, Benetton, La Perla and About U are also in the expansion mode. Franchising in this segment has helped many domestic players not only extend their portfolio into the luxury segments but also made them ideal sourcing partners for these brands in India as well as globally.

As per Achal Bhutani, Director, Marketing, Groversons Apparel, “The entry of international brands has helped us grow much faster. They have broken the price barriers of Indian consumers. Now, it has become easier for us to offer quality products at higher prices.”

Although the present trend shows that only 3 per cent of the lingerie stores in our country are franchised, rapid growth has been projected in the future, courtesy aggressive expansion plans of brands like Groversons, Triumph, Enamor  and Jockey.

Commenting on the market trend, Bhutani says, “At present, Multi-Brand Outlets (MBOs) have proved to be more successful. But, with increasing awareness about sizes and fits and brands adding more categories to their portfolio (like sleepwear, lounge wear, sports wear, swim wear, bridal wear), an Exclusive Brand Outlet (EBO) would be a more viable option. Out of our 16 outlets, only three are company-owned and the rest franchised.” The trend of franchising in lingerie segment is catching up fast as the potential franchisees do not have to worry about the product and training in this niche segment. International lingerie brand Triumph, which had entered India a few years back, today has six franchised stores. The brand offers support to its franchisees in terms of branding, visibility, promotional activities, I-T support, store management and above all, a tried and tested business model. Triumph is the only brand that runs its own academy in India for providing required support to the staff.

Groversons offers franchisees a complete knowledge about their collections and the ways to sell lingerie. As lingerie buying is a very personal decision, they teach their sales staff the finer nuances of personal dealings with the shopper.

Plus size: Plenty to offer

With 28 per cent of the Indian women being obese, the large-sized apparel market has fast gained prominence. Need for bigger sizes, westernisation and awareness of fashion trends have accelerated the demand for fashionable plus size apparels in India. Gone are the days when plus-size apparel was recognised as lingerie and maternity wear. Now, western wear apparels in the plus size segment have increased the consumer demand, paving way for a significant growth in the near future.

Presently, there are not many players operating in this segment. Those already operating prefer franchising as an ideal business model for brand expansion.

Nisha Somaia, Director, Revolution, had initiated the concept of plus size in India a decade ago and eventually taken up the franchise route to expand. According to her, “Since franchising is a profitable business model the business does not suffer much in case of an economic slump.”

Many retailers are investing in plus size sector and promoting it through their in-house labels or a tie-up. Major retailers like Pantaloon, Reliance and Shoppers Stop are already into this segment. The emergence of exclusive plus size brands has paved way for other men's and women's wear brands specialising in this segment to launch a special line in plus size. This has lead to a fierce competition among brands catering exclusively to plus size and brand catering to all sizes.

Commenting on this, Sandeep Aggarwal, Director, Pluss, says, “Plus size industry has lots of opportunities as this is a growing segment. We are just not facing competition from exclusive plus size brands but from other brands too, which have started manufacturing bigger sizes. We are ahead of all other brands because we cater to customers in plus size, keeping in mind their style requisites and sizes. We offer tremendous variety in plus size, unlike non-exclusive plus size brands.”

The Indian market is highly price-sensitive and with increasing purchasing power, the demand, too, is mounting. The prospective players must pay attention to plus size customers, as it is not just limited to plus size waists but plus size profits too. There are a lot of untapped opportunities in this segment, which the brands need to realise to fill the gap which exists in the demand and supply chain. Aggarwal says, “We have four company-owned and 15 franchised outlets and are further planning to open six to seven franchised stores in year 2010-2011. We are looking for franchisees not only in metros but tier II and III cities too.”

Designer wear:

From elite to all alike

The domestic designer wear industry underwent a major overhaul, emerging from the elite shadow to spread to the upper middle class segment. Designer wear labels, which were earlier limited to only the rich and pompous, percolated down to the fashion consiousness upper middle class segment too. Entry price points for the designer wear segment have been repositioned to develop the market segment. India has a pool of talented designers, who contribute to the growth of the apparel industry. It is estimated that the designer wear industry would grow to Rs 1,000 crore by 2015. Presently, the organised market for designer wear is worth Rs 250 crore.

Satya Paul, famous for its abstract designs, took up franchising almost a decade ago and presently, has a network of franchisees pan India. As per a designer wear franchisee, “Our association with the designer wear brand is six-year-old. To make the franchise relationship stronger, the brand holds a training programme twice a year. It takes the responsibility of store management and keeps updating us regarding the products. We are fully satisfied in terms of support and training.”  Ritu Kumar, who has three franchised outlets in Ahmedabad, Guwhati and Indore, is happy with the performance of her franchised outlets.

Indian designers are breaking free from metro barriers and opening their franchised outlets in tier II cities as well. A few designers have also spread their wings internationally.

Giant leap ahead

The penetration of players in these niche segments is getting deeper, as consumers are becoming more fashion savvy, attaching more value to brands. These three sectors are poised for a giant leap ahead due to the saturation in men's wear, women's wear and kids wear. These segments, untouched till recently, offer plenty to ponder over. Franchising in the untapped sectors of apparel industry is at an embryonic stage, but the gigantic fashion-savvy India consumer will continue to set the growth trends for its fashion industry.

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