It plans to expand besides tweaking offerings to suit the WFH consumer as it expects a 100% recovery by March 2021
To amplify the visibility of American menswear brand Arrow, Arvind Fashions has roped in actor Hrithik Roshan as its brand ambassador. Shailesh Chaturvedi talks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about the apparel company’s expansion plan, tweaking offerings to suit the WFH consumer, and expecting 100% recovery by March 2021.
Are you seeing a revival in consumer sentiment, now that we are in the middle of the festive season?
Business started picking up from June. The festivals of Eid and Rakshabandhan in the months of July and August brought in both offline and online sales for us. In general, we have been witnessing a steady improvement since both e-commerce and offline retail resumed across India. We do expect that, by Diwali, people will be looking to socialise a bit and therefore, there will be demand for new clothes. Fashion is a mood enhancer, and we noticed during the 2008 recession that people had chosen to buy new, colourful clothes that infused optimism. If we do offer something that is desirable, people will indulge in some retail therapy.
We are seeing a healthy revival in consumer sentiment in the run-up to Diwali. We surpassed 60% of last year’s business in August; by Diwali, we hope to see a revival to the tune of 80-85% of last year. By February-March, we hope to see 100% recovery.
How has your e-commerce channel fared in the last few months?
E-commerce was naturally the first to recover. The second channel seeing strong recovery are the standalone high street stores. Initially, we saw a huge pent-up demand for kidswear, innerwear, etc. Secular data trends show that online is now contributing nearly 20% to our business. During the lockdown, this was higher. While the pandemic has surely accelerated the growth of e-commerce, and it has become the primary sales channel for many, we expect it to stabilise at about 20-25%, and resume its own growth trajectory next year.
How are you tweaking your offerings to suit the ‘work from home’ norm?
We are increasing our focus on apparels such as track pants, t-shirts, shorts and open footwear. For instance, under the Arrow brand, we are now promoting Arrow Sports. This segment contributes 30% to our total sales.
Even before Covid-19 hit us, people had started dressing differently for formal occasions. There has been a shift from pure-play formal wear. As a result, we have been making ‘interesting formal wear’, which is more stretchable, made from softer material, with differentiated detailing on the garments. As people begin to go back to work, we will focus on our formal wear. Products that are relevant only when stepping out, are taking longer to revive. While we are seeing good demand for products like footwear and underwear, products for special occasions like watches and belts are far lower on the consumer’s purchase priority list.
Have premium brands at Arvind Fashions like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein been hit harder than the others?
In the premium segment for apparel, we are seeing consumers delaying purchases and reducing frequency of purchases, rather than downgrading. Once people get used to a certain quality of products, they don’t tend to trade that premium experience for a value-oriented product. These brands add to the image of the person wearing them; so, people are less inclined to move away from brands that give intangible benefits.
What about your expansion plans…have they been put on hold?
We had anticipated a lockdown, and decided to cut down on our production as early as March 2020. This helped us address issues like inventory build-up, which is a natural result of the kind of severe slowdown that we experienced in Q1 2021. We did undertake some cost-cutting and liquidity management initiatives, and are now on an aggressive metro-drive for our brand Arrow.
For this, we are glamourising Arrow by roping in Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan as our brand ambassador. We have a new store identity which we will introduce in 20 new stores before the end of the year. The construction of these stores was on hold, because of the lockdown. We had launched 25 of these stores in February this year, and are continuing our expansion now. We will be cautious, but won’t stop our plans.