By guest author Faizan Haidar from the Indian Economic Times Bureau-
Synopsis: Over the past decade, global brands Zara and H&M became market leaders in the fast fashion segment in India. However, Uniqlo said consumers are opting for sustainable and durable garments instead of cheap and mass-produced ones in India as well as globally.
Uniqlo, Asia’s biggest clothing brand, said consumers in India are increasingly shifting from ‘fast-fashion’ to long-lasting essentials and functional wear and it will help the growth of the company.
Over the past decade, global brands Zara and H&M became market leaders in the fast fashion segment in India. However, Uniqlo said consumers are opting for sustainable and durable garments instead of cheap and mass-produced ones in India as well as globally.
“India is an important and very big priority market. The Indian customer is sensitive to quality and fitting which are functional, and we see consumer mindset changing from short-term fashion to essential long-term ones. India offers a high potential market for the trend,” Tomohiko Sei, chief executive officer at Uniqlo India told ET.
As the world’s second most-populated country, India is an attractive market for apparel brands, especially with youngsters increasingly embracing western-style clothing. Uniqlo is globally popular for functional basics like T-shirts, jeans and woollen wear, unlike fast-fashion rivals which are associated with designs that move quickly from the catwalk to the showroom.
Both Zara and H&M stocks fast fashion items created in-house and team up with designers for one-time collections. They keep a large inventory of basic, everyday items sourced from places including India and Bangladesh that carry a lower price tag than most of its rivals.
The Japanese brand opened its first Indian store in September 2019, but stringent lockdown measures were announced to contain the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. This delayed its store expansion plans, restaurants, etc.
“Covid had a big impact on us as most of the spring-summer business and project was gone because of the lockdown. But we opened the Uniqlo online store. Despite covid, we reached to our customer online,” said Sei.
When the company launched the online store in July 2021, it had a target of 15% of the total business from e-commerce channel, which it has surpassed.
Most companies across apparel and lifestyle segments are facing global supply chain headwinds which have made manufacturing and movement of products pricier around the world.