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Lifestyle retailers ride on festive cheer, but will it last?

Retail biz has started picking up with Diwali and wedding season around the corner.

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NEW DELHI: Businesses across varied sectors are trying their best to beat the lockdown blues altogether after months of economic slowdown. Apparel and lifestyle retailers have some cause for cheer as the sector is showing signs of revival. The players are banking on the festive season to revive their sales further.

In August, lifestyle retailers reported almost 20 per cent growth, the best since outlets reopened in June after months of lockdown.

Retailers say that the business has started picking up over the past few weeks, and now with Diwali and the wedding season around the corner, it will help brands to perform better as compared to the lockdown period. However, companies believe that it will take around six months at least for the business to be back on the actual sales and revenue figures.

Consumer demand registered an uptick on the occasion of Navratri and Durga Puja but so far, the average ticket size is small.

Cantabil Retail India Ltd director Deepak Bansal said the brand is expecting around 40 per cent growth compared to the previous months. “We anticipate achieving 75 per cent of what we achieved vis-à-vis last year. With the new merchandise and festive offers, we are hopeful it will act as a pull factor for the customers and the season will prove to be good for the whole industry.”

He shared that to achieve the same growth figures as last year will take time, and not to expect the market to function at pre-pandemic levels before the next financial year.

TCNS Clothing Co Ltd head – marketing Aarti Ahuja agreed that there has been a revival of demand for festive products such as ethnic dresses, accessories, and attires. Consumer trends may not match the demand created by festivals in normal times but the growing sale of festive products is reviving the sector and displaying high inclination of buying festive products, she added.

Havas Media managing partner- North & West India Uday Mohan was of the view that the lockdown has resulted in pent-up demand. A lot of discretionary spends on travel/holidays/eating out have been cut down, so all these savings should be pumped towards retail spends especially with a plethora of deals available.

By contrast, Spykar CEO Sanjay Vakharia doesn’t perceive the current situation to be sustainable. “Festive period would be comparatively good, and that will lead us into the end of season months. Post that will be the real test and what turns the business will depend on a lot of variables.”

It was an unprecedented crisis for the retail sector when stores were shut for months during the lockdown, but the unlock phase has its share of challenges too. Now, customers are preferring to shop online instead of stepping out. The situation has driven companies to focus on the e-commerce model.

Bansal explained while offline sales have bounced back in the second quarter and look stable for Tier 2 and 3 cities, the customer in Tier 1 cities are still more comfortable ordering online. “We have been working towards strengthening our digital channel. We have forayed into the online market space recently, so this would be the first festive season we would be available online and are expecting good traction in the number of sales".

Ahuja also chimed that the brand is witnessing a rise in footfall as the year progresses, however, there is a growing trend of people leveraging both online and offline channels to purchase products.

In order to boost sales, retailers have been offering heavy discounts of up to 60 per cent. Future Group, for example, is running discount offers of up to 60 per cent on apparels through third-party online sales, including Amazon India, and also offline via its own retail chains such as Big Bazaar and fbb.

Considering most of the sales take place in this period, brands do extensive promotion and stress a lot on the marketing channels to leverage it. All the major brands have started launching campaigns, promoting products through the ATL and BTL modes.

Ahuja shared that over the years, TCNS clothing has been exploring all mediums of advertising including print, outdoor, TV as well as OTT to reach the TG. However, the outbreak of the pandemic has disrupted the way media and content is being consumed. “We are evolving with the TG and focusing on changing trends in the ‘new normal’ by creating personalised communication for both online and offline consumers while bridging the gap. All costs are being challenged from a zero-based budgeting principle.”

She further mentioned that various initiatives like hyper-local pop-up stores and virtual store visits are being experimented with. "The brand is exploring influencer marketing in a more structured and sustained manner. In terms of leveraging other media channels, it would depend largely on how the current situation evolves soon".

Cantabil this year is focusing more on personalized communications for both offline and online consumers channels through SMS campaigns, influencer engagements, or strategic digital campaigns, in order to maintain connect with the target audience

Biba MD Siddharth Bindra said that brands are planning innovative and creative ideas in terms of marketing to cope up with the current situation, with the maximum spend being on digital. “We, too, have changed our strategy and are adapting to the new. We are engaging with our existing consumers through our CRM tool and are very active online to keep our audiences abreast with what is new at Biba.”

“From an overall perspective, TV and digital are the two lead mediums. For retail, specifically print (newspapers) continues to be the focus option. IPL and news are the key genres on TV where the bulk of advertising has been focused on,” Mohan concluded.

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