Sunday, August 17, 2014

As Indian society sheds its gender bias, housewives dress up in western wear

When Shoppers Stop's marketing head Vinay Bhatia visited one of his department stores on a recent afternoon, he noticed women flocking for bargains at the western apparel counter.
Nothing unusual, except for the fact that it was a weekday and so many women could not have possibly bunked office to shop.
Bhatia checked the retailer's loyalty card database to realise that most of those shoppers were housewives who would normally buy Indian or ethnic wear. "This indicates an emerging pattern in women's apparel habits and some degree of shift to a western fashion sensibility," he says.
It is the same story across shops. Retailers such as Arvind Retail, Promart and Van Heusen, too, are seeing housewives driving sales of their hip-and-trendy western wear, and in some cases making the brands tweak their offerings and marketing strategy to suit them.
"Housewives would want to get dressed for parties and with the society opening up to western dressing sensibilities, experimentation with western apparel has increased too," said Vinay Bhopatkar, brand head, Van Heusen at Madura Fashion & Lifestyle.
Women's wear is one of the fastest-growing apparel categories and Shoppers Stop's Bhatia says housewives' shopping has grown faster than that of working women in the first quarter of this year. One reason for this is that many western brands will now sell merchandise that suits the Indian body type.
"When we initially launched Elle, we realised that we are also attracting 35-40 year olds including housewives. So we added bigger sizes as we see a lot of confident women adopting western wear," J Suresh, chief executive of Arvind Brands, says.
Retailers also say demand for women's western wear is soaring not just in metros or big cities but smaller towns as well.
"Due to the influence of Bollywood and the increasing aspiration by housewives in smaller towns, we see western wear picking up substantially, driving growth from 6-7% last year to over 12% now," says Punit Agarwal, promoter and chief executive officer at Promart Retail, a discount retail chain focused primarily on smaller cities and towns.
Consultancy firm Technopak says the demand for women's western wear is at an all-time high, thanks to the increase in the share of women in the workforce and the growing economic independence of women. This trend is expected to continue as more women enter the labour force or aspire to follow the lifestyle of working women.
Already, several men's formal brands have extended their brands to women's segment to make the most of this demand.
While demand for western wear is on the rise, Indian ethnic wear such as sarees and salwar-kameez still account for three-fourths of the entire women's wear market worth Rs 78,500 crore.
The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate ( CAGR) of 9% for the next five years and will reach Rs 1,21,400 crore by 2017.

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