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Moolah Route: It's party time for fashion brands this winter
The Economic Times - 29 Dec 2010

Eighteen-year-old Kanika Kapur's year-end party picks include a Mango bag and shoes from Charles & Keith. Now she is planning to hit the malls, friends in tow, for a dress for the big night.

Kanika's parents are no slouches on the shopping front either. While her mother, Vandana, has chosen to go with a J J Valaya outfit for the New Year's eve bash at home, her father, Delhi based construction equipment company owner Vijay Kapur, has opted for a suit from Wills Lifestyle .

It is going to set the Kapurs back by Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 for the night just on the clothes and accessories, but no one is complaining. "After all, it's a once-in-a-year occasion," Vijay Kapur said.

"The New Year has practically attained the scale of a festival in India," Woodland India managing director Harkirat Singh said. "On one hand, it is the height of winter, which is pushing up winter wear sales; on the other, the party season is driving the demand for high fashion."

With the economy doing well once again, consumers have found yet another occasion to splurge. Fashion brands and retailers such as Charles & Keith , Mango, Promod, Marks & Spencer, Shoppers Stop and Future Group are notching up record year-end sales of party and fashion winter wear . Sales are up between 20% and 40% over last year.

With parties, clubs and socialising ruling the roost, retailers and fashion brands alike have come up with distinct collections for the yearend , with an emphasis on club wear. Woodlands, for instance, has recorded multiple transactions where individual bill sizes have gone up to Rs 50,000.

It has introduced a coordinated line of bags and shoes in leather, selling for around Rs 20,000. The fashion shoe-to-apparel major is recording more than 30% growth in sales, with overcoats, jackets, boots and high-fashion shoes from its sub-brand , Woods, being the hotsellers.

"People are buying more expensive and luxurious items this year," said Atul Chand, divisional chief executive of ITC Lifestyle retailing . "Some customers are also spending upwards of Rs 25,000-30 ,000 each at the store," he said.

ITC Wills Lifestyle is eyeing a growth of 25%- plus on same-store basis, riding on new launches and designer wear by celebrities like Rohit Bal, JJ Valaya and Rajesh Pratap Singh.

Dresses—short , mid-calf , LBDs, sheaths and shifts—are the hands-down winners on the party circuit this year, though skirts, gowns, and skinny jeans and tops for teens are popular options as well. Those in their late 30s-40 s are opting for dresses or tunic-style tops, some paired with jeans or leggings.

Classic black is still the primary colour of the season followed by darker colours including reds, jewel tones and even beiges. Mid-thigh jackets and long overcoats are being used to keep the chill at bay, while in footwear, boots are among the most popular sellers, apart from high heels and even wedge heels for those looking for comfort.

"New innovative products like jeggings and treggings are also doing very well," said Chand. . Singapore-based footwear and fashion accessories label, Charles & Keith, has notched sales growth of 20% over the last year. "Youngsters are picking up styles from the season trends," said a company spokesperson .

"They are spending anywhere between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 per transaction." Leading fashion brand, Promod, is seeing a surge in sales by young buyers who are picking up tops and denims in prints and bold colours, spending between Rs 2,500 and Rs 2,700 per transaction. Even Mango has notched up around Rs 3,000 spending per transaction. Retailers too are having a field day.

Shoppers Stop has ramped up its party season merchandise and is selling multiple party wear options from brands like Van Heusen's VDot range, Provogue, Zodiac's club wear range Zod, Arrow, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. The retailer said average bill sizes are up 5-7 %.

"The high demand for party wear is generated from not just the yearend bashes, but even from the marriage season. The combination of customers' confidence in the economy and continuing GDP (gross domestic product) growth are helping double digit liketo-like sales growth," Shoppers Stop managing director Govind Shrikhande said. Shoppers Stop has recorded 25% growth in sales.

India's largest retailer, the Future Group, is confident of continuing the 30%-plus growth rate it achieved in the festive season to the winter season, driven by party wear and winter wear. "Even the non-metros are showing an increased demand for party wear," said Pantaloons head (marketing) Zahid Shaikh.

The group's value retail arm, Big Bazaar , too is seeing more than 60% growth in sales, driven by party wear and fashion range. "We introduced a lot of attractive price-points this year, which led to a modest 25%-plus growth in average selling price in these range and multiple buys," said Sadashiv Nayak , joint CEO at Future Value Retail.

Marks & Spencer Reliance India marketing head Nandini Sethuraman said occasion wear as well as knitwear for the winters are doing particularly well. The retailers and brands claim the strong winter this year has come as a big respite after the last couple of years when winter wear sales were hammered badly due to the relatively warm weather.

In fact, retailers plan to postpone their winter wear sales to the first and second week of January from the usual December-end sales. "With winters expected to be prolonged this year, we expect deep discounting to start from the first week of January unlike the usual year-end sales. The idea is to achieve a higher sell through and thereafter liquidate stocks," said Spencer's Retail vice-president (Apparel) Subrata Siddhanta.

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