Recovery Road: Fashion retailers turn to discounting, loyal customers for recovery

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June 1, 2020 5:30 AM

As the economy slowly starts to reopen, fashion brands such as Marks & Spencer, United Colors of Benetton, Jack & Jones and Vero Moda are strategising to resume operations.

While some of them have introduced discounts to entice consumers into buying, others are focusing on their loyal customer base to ring in the sales.

As the economy slowly starts to reopen, fashion brands such as Marks & Spencer, United Colors of Benetton, Jack & Jones and Vero Moda are strategising to resume operations. While some of them have introduced discounts to entice consumers into buying, others are focusing on their loyal customer base to ring in the sales.

Shoppers Stop, which has reopened six stores in the country, is offering discounts up to 50% on brands like Celio, Levi’s, Pepe Jeans, Cover Story, AND, Fratini Women, Gipsy, Life and Madame. The company is also running offers on beauty brands like Maybelline, Revlon, Lakmé Cosmetics, L’Oréal, FACES Cosmetics and SUGAR Cosmetics. Bestseller brands Jack & Jones, Vero Moda and ONLY are also offering discounts up to 50%, whereas H&M has discounted its merchandise up to 60%.

Apparel retail is among the worst hit sectors due to the country-wide lockdown imposed to check the spread of Covid-19. According to Anurag Mathur, head, retail and partner, PwC, fashion retailers are looking at loss of 30-50% in revenues in FY21 due to the pandemic.

“The consumption occasions for which people buy fashion have significantly come down. Consumers are also cutting down on their discretionary spends fearing an economic downturn. These are the biggest challenges for retailers,” says Mathur.

Furthermore, companies have unsold inventory due to the lockdown and are offering discounts to get merchandise off the shelves, in order to ring in new collections by Diwali. “This strategy, however, might not be very effective as consumers are not making feel-good purchases and are, instead, opting for need-based purchases,” he adds.

Fashion retailers are also focusing on their loyal customer base instead of trying to acquire new customers. “About 45-60% of consumers coming to our stores are frequent customers,” shares Sundeep Chugh, CEO and MD, Benetton India. The company’s store managers are in touch with customers, keeping them updated about the measures taken in-store to ensure safety. “We are sending them catalogues through WhatsApp and are also delivering products if they are unwilling to visit the store,” he adds. Benetton India is currently operating through 225 point of sales outlets.

Shoppers Stop, too, has taken similar measures for its loyal customer base. “We have been reaching out to our First Citizen customers, which contribute about 80% to our revenue. Our personal shoppers have been in constant touch with them and are delivering products to their homes too,” says Uma Talreja, chief marketing and chief customer officer, Shoppers Stop.

Furthermore, brands have also introduced several home services to win back the customers. Marks & Spencer, which has reopened seven stores in the country, is offering trial-at-home, online return of products and has extended the exchange and return window for its products to 90 days.

Bestseller, on the other hand, has opened its stores in Goa, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Haryana, among others, and is offering appointment-based shopping to its customers.

“While we have realigned our strategies, the movement in our stores is slow and the demand is low but the conversion rate has shot up considerably as people are coming in with a clear intent to buy,” says Vineet Gautam, CEO and country head, Bestseller India.

Companies are also managing inventory by tracking sales. Most brands have seen a surge in demand for comfort and kids wear, and are sprucing up production to meet the demand for such products.

Experts are of view that recovery will take time for these companies and they need to focus on bringing out categories like work from home wear, realign their prices and keep communicating to customers about the safety measures taken to regain sales.

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