Clothing Chain Reliance Trends To Expand Focus On WomensWear

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The clothing chain Reliance Trends is set to expand its womenswear range as it expects spending in the category to be at par with that of men’s clothing over the next three to four years, signalling a dramatic shift in the shopping habits of Indian consumers.
 
 
India has traditionally been a menswear market, where most apparel chains earn the bulk of their revenue from selling men’s clothing and accessories.
 
 
Reliance, which has close to 210 stores in places from Mumbai to Bellary, currently generates 41% of its revenue from menswear, while womenswear contributes about 35%.
 
 
“We will see some structural shifts in the category that have not taken place in say a decade,” said Akhilesh Prasad, head of the fashion business at Reliance Retail Ltd, which is the retail arm of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
 
 
“That’s why we are taking measures to expand our range.” The focus shift comes at a time when more Indian women are becoming part of the workforce and getting a chance to stay on top of latest fashion trends. Social changes have propelled the growth of the segment at a much faster clip than menswear, said Prasad.
 
 
India is one of the few markets where spending on menswear outstrips that on womenswear, largely because there are more men in the workforce.
 
Womenswear is a $15.5 billion category and accounts for 38% of the overall apparel and textile market in India, according to a report by consulting firm Technopak Advisors. The firm experts the womenswear category to catch up with menswear in a decade.
 
 
The women’s ready-to-wear category is largely driven by the convenience associated with it, experts said. Many women in big cities have started to switch from tailored to readymade garments, said Shazia Khan, vice-president and executive planning director at advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) in India. Khan has extensively studied aspirations of young urban women and expects the trend to stay.
 
 
The rise of online shopping is also giving Indian women exposure to latest fashion, more often than before.
 
 
“They are exposed to more deals and varieties. This is likely to convert to shopping at some point,” Khan said.
 
 
To be sure, Reliance is not the only one to notice the trend. A clutch of retail brands, including Lifestyle and Central have started pushing womenswear on a larger scale. Even Van Heusen—known mainly for its menswear—has opened standalone womenswear stores in select markets.
 
 
To catch up with the demand, Reliance Trends, which sells close to five million garments a month, is adding more designers and increasing sourcing for both ethnic and western womenswear. The company is planning to open design centres in international markets, from where, for instance, it will pool resources to track the latest designs and trends for the Indian market, largely focused on women’s western wear. It already has designs centres in cities such as Bengaluru for both men’s and women’s apparel.
 
 
For the year ending 31 March 2015, Reliance Retail—that operates 2,600 stores in 200 markets across categories such as electronics, fashion and grocery—reported revenue of over Rs.17,000 crore.
 

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