The Indian retail industry is now reaching out to more consumers through technology, changing the buying habits for many Indians. This online shopping culture has been further reinforced with the impact of the pandemic clubbed with lockdown. With the effects of Covid 19 still dominant, leading retailers have already started focussing on improving their online presence and have witnessed considerable sales growth from consumers across the country.
Madame, a women’s fashion brand, with over 150 exclusive brand outlets and available in over 600 multi-brand outlets across India saw their online sales jump from 2x to 10x during the pandemic ridden 2020, especially with customers form Tier I & II locations.
Manish Joshi from NewsBarons connects with Akhil Jain, Executive Director, Madame who informs ‘Online shopping is now a consideration even for day-to-day necessities to avoid stepping into public spaces’.
NB: What was the impact of pandemic on sales.
Akhil: The Covid 19 phase has been the most unexpected and unprecedented expectation of business downfalls. Demand, supply, and workforce availability were affected globally simultaneously. Fashion and apparel brands went online with their products as an absolute necessity to survive in the market. It has given us the competence to attract new customers and reach out to existing customers in a seamless manner. Technology has kept the demand for the apparel industry-relevant. Demand for fashion evolved and started changing gradually due to lockdown fatigue and the beginning of the wedding season. Digital look books are the new trends that are helping consumers to buy and try products within the safety of their homes.
While some apparel like loungewear experienced a high demand, categories like fashion wear saw a decline due to lockdown guidelines. There have been major disruptions across supply chains and raw materials. Automation has been a key component towards the revival of our business. Most retailers are migrating to online selling platforms. Online shopping is now a consideration even for day-to-day necessities to avoid stepping into public spaces.
NB: How do you see 2021 in terms of growth and expansion? Where do you see growth opportunities.
Akhil: We have created innovative designs that minimize textile waste in the manufacturing process. Our designs are accurate and arrive with environmental responsibility in mind. We time and again innovate and experiment with recycled materials and endeavour to reuse unusual materials that speak the language of Responsible fashion
We feel emerging as a sustainable fashion brand is the need of the hour and all brands needs to move towards environmentally-friendly fashion. We are committed to providing environmentally friendly fashion and spreading awareness by constantly looking for ways to redefine fashion by creating sustainable and ethical products. Our long-term sustainability goal is to move towards becoming a 100% environmentally friendly organization. We also plan to reduce the carbon footprint by at least 80% and then become a carbon-negative company by 2030. Digitization has given us a chance to expose all of our inventories to all the target markets in one go. The working of the retail industry is never going to be the same.
NB: How do you see Tier 1 & 11 supplementing growth for your brand in 2021.
Akhil: We currently have an annual production capacity of more than 2 million pieces. We spend approximately 5% of the revenue on machine up-gradation and maintenance annually. COVID-19 has had an impact on our businesses, but it gave us a good opportunity to introspect and develop. At present, customers receive their products within two days of ordering online. This has helped us to retain and grow their customers.
In the upcoming 3 years, the company is expecting a three-fold growth through online sales. We are primarily working towards creating our future revenues through online sales and reduce our offline dependency.
NB: What is the role of technology for your brand?
Akhil: Digitization allows companies to adjust products based upon demand for them using real-time sales information this has allowed us to accelerate the production of best-sellers and cut our losses on the laggards. The opportunities surrounding digitization have made it possible for brands to access, store and process a large amount of data both from within a firm and externally. In a system with end-to-end transparency, every member within the network will have access to all data.
Quality and price are the major deciding factors in retail business. Several leading market players have acquired textile companies overseas and entered into joint ventures to strengthen this industry and expand their global outreach trough online sales platforms.
NB: What are your views on AI based ‘Demand driven fashion forecast’ technology.
Akhil: Digitizing processes can enable improved visibility and provide real-time insights into the supply chain, giving people along the chain full control. Automation is the most important benefit of using AI to control supply chains in retail. For instance, an AI-powered warehouse mainly relies on robots to store, locate, and pick goods. Pre-programmed machines can do it routinely, thus speeding up the packaging processes and taking productivity to a whole new level.
Digital Supply Networks (DSN) are increasingly in focus as they provide an opportunity to exponentially improve efficiency and effectiveness in the supply chain, optimize cost and obtain end-to-end visibility.
AI-powered forecasting can reduce errors by 30 to 50% in retail production. The improved accuracy leads up to a 65% reduction in lost sales due to inventory out-of-stock situations and warehousing costs decrease around 10 to 40%. The new market will deal with integrated planning and execution, logistics visibility procurement 4.0, smart warehousing, efficient production management, autonomous and B2C logistics and prescriptive sales and expansion analytics.
NB: What are the trends that emerged in 2020.
Akhil: The fashion world changed in 2020 to a more adaptable and sustainable trend being adopted by many. Sweatpants and the style of the 90’s returned to closets. Comfort clothing and lounge wear emerged as the go to outfit for most people. The innovations in creating and conceptualising masks have also added to tremendous business opportunities for the fashion world. This includes styling masks for men, women, kids and teenagers. The style also includes adding chains, uses of soft fabrics that are safe for travels and local use. People also reinvigorated older clothes, with more time being spent at home, working from home in pyjamas or wearing shirts that probably are loose in their fittings.
Affordable fashion is an emerging trend across categories. Various companies are now conceiving ideas to showcase lifestyle brands at cheaper rates. New strategies in the manufacturing, retailing, and distribution sectors are being now devised to cater to the emerging westernized style of clothing. Daywear, summer essentials are being termed as the new quarantine wardrobe. While luxury apparel clothing has stepped aside friendly loungewear and activewear have also logically contributed towards buying patterns.
NB: How do you see the growth of the fashion retail industry in the coming 5 years.
Akhil: In-store shopping trips have been replaced with online shopping. For the past few months, the retail industry has culminated various experiences and aspects of selling on an online platform. The virtual look and feel of the products have been magnified for the customers through in-depth analysis and commitment towards some basic facets that are mandatory to launch online. The shopping behavior of consumers had temporarily changed but brands have been forced to change their product strategies to suit the changing demands of people in the long run.
We have witnessed industry transformations in shedding the initial fears of large corporations displacing small shops. There is now a noticeable shift towards organized retailing. The sector will have one of the highest incremental human resource requirements of 17.35 million by 2022, offering opportunities in sales, merchandising, store management, central management, and procurement.