Sri Lanka has created a niche in luxury fashion and increasingly top global fashion houses are expanding their bases in the country. Jude Gayantha Perera, Chief Curator, Stylist.lk, points out Sri Lanka’s market for international luxury fashion brands is on the cusp of a renaissance. And it has moved its way up evading all the hardships it was facing for close to three decades. During those years, Sri Lanka’s international reputation as a market diminished and international operations opted out of the country. Therefore, the market was left untouched until it started gaining stability amidst post-war developments.
High literacy rates a major boost
Sri Lankans’ ability to read and interact via digital channels has led to a much higher tendency to read and watch international fashion content, from magazines, online shows and digital screenings. This has given rise to consumers who have relatively high awareness about value and appeal that international fashion brands hold. For many Sri Lankan consumers, an opportunity to experience their favourite international brands on offline channels, at retail fronts as real, immersive experiences are highly desirable. This is one of the major reasons why brands are planning their entry in this growing market.
Sri Lanka is strategically well-placed in international sea and air routes and this has made the island extremely receptive to new ideas. Sri Lankan markets are surprisingly receptive to foreign products, brands and retail fronts, making it a welcoming place for business. And, there is a growing explosion of upper-middle classes, owing to increasing incomes and accessibility to products and services. Sri Lanka has been experiencing this shift leading to a greater interest in designer products, lifestyle purchases, luxury spends and unusual retail experiences.
Physical stores score over e-commerce
While e-commerce is on the rise, Sri Lanka’s import regulations, and lack of last-mile-delivery setups mean most consumers still prefer cash on delivery or straight up retail—especially for fashion where fit and look are of paramount importance. This has led to more room for traditional retail even within at the thick of the digital revolution, especially for those carrying the appeal of international brands.
What is more Sri Lanka has a growing community of creative practitioners giving rise to a leading group of consumers who fuel a new visual culture. This means a growing number of designers, photographers, stylists, curators, artists, etc., who have an intrinsic interest and unusual viewpoints on style and fashion. Sri Lanka is seeing the beginning of strong trends, visual subcultures and Instagram-worthy portrayals of creative lifestyles. This is a strong influencer for consumer directions and buying patterns, often inspiring new interest in lifestyle purchases.
Major travellers’ influx
Sri Lanka has been topping travel lists since 2012 with high-spending travellers on the rise. The number of inbound travellers is always on the rise, and a niche that every brand is trying to get in on is travel retail. Fashion retail for travellers is not the same as those targeting domestic markets. But, Sri Lanka’s constant flux of globetrotters is an excellent opportunity for luxury brands to target their destination collections, travel wardrobes and seasonless looks that work with the island’s forever-summer tropical appeal.