Raiding the Indian fashion closet for never before insights

 

Given that retail is India’s largest service sector, the future of this vital industry really matters. But how are we to work out what the best ways forward are? Should we listen to the pronouncements of entrepreneurs or designers, or the predictions of analysts or commentators?

 

Here’s another tack, and one we think is probably the best: look at actual customer behavior. And thanks to technology, we can now do this in the most detailed, highly-granular way; by sifting through the products and lines Indian customers are “voting for with their pocketbooks,” and so determining what the real shape of the market is underneath all the marketing slogans.

A great case in point is the fashion sector. From Indian corporate giants like Tata to a whole slew of ambitious dot com start-ups, this is a massively fast-moving target that lots of players are aiming at. Our analysis of the Indian retail market points to a steep rising trend for the next four years, with e-commerce rising to $110 billion and organized retail remaining very strong at $165 billion.

The female shopper clearly Queen of all she surveys

Well, what should fashion wannabes be planning for this booming vertical, based on the unique insights we’ve processed with our software?

The Indian fashion sector, we have discovered, is dominated by apparel (47%) followed by accessories (40%), footwear (9%) and lingerie (4%). The next biggest category of apparel is ethnic wear, at 42% of all items sold – and it’s very clear from our results that given ethnic clothing is not just the highest apparel catalog item in terms of density, but also has the highest average selling price (Rs 2055) and discount rate (average: Rs 1816) is clear proof that ethnic is a very desirable flavor for the Indian consumer.

Ethnic wear occupies 42% of the Indian apparel catalog

Tweet: In March’16, 45% items in the North American catalog were list priced http://bit.ly/1RDprmM via @bigdataNODE

 

And who is this consumer? The data cannot lie: an overwhelming 69% of the Indian apparel catalog is set up to appeal to female consumers. Men come way down the list at 21% for men, with 9% for children – leaving a pretty minuscule 1% of all apparel items being marketed as unisex.

Lingerie in poll position

If that’s one interesting snapshot of the Indian fashion buyer, let’s have a discreet peek into another important area: what do Indian women feel drawn to in terms of lingerie? The answer is that while panties are the cheapest lingerie items that can be bought by Indian consumers at a mere Rs 414, the range of prices here and the amount of discounting is quite remarkable. Loungewear and Nightwear items make up nearly half of the entire market here, at 45% density – but average prices are of a very steep Rs 739. That’s even after the high average discount of Rs 533 vendors apply here across the board, average selling prices for such items are still the highest in the entire lingerie sub category.

We think this proves that lingerie sellers are aware of a high demand for their ranges – and are hence pushing them aggressively, while keeping the average ticket price higher than any other lingerie items. Maximizing profitability through the sale of these items seems to be the rationale behind all this, suggesting that this is a very dynamic part of the entire fashion sector in the country. Finally, it’s a very close tie between camisoles & slips and bras for the second highest position in lingerie, with average selling prices of Rs 522 and Rs 521 respectively.

It’s also interesting to see what this lingerie looks like to the eye. Indian consumers and sellers seem to have a marked preference for multi-colored items, with 25% of the lingerie catalog allotted to that color variety. Black, white, beige and shades of blue seem to be the other popular colors for the lingerie section of both bricks and mortar and cyber malls. And in terms of material, the factor of daily life in a hot country comes through clearly; cotton is the unquestioned top material of choice here, with 45% of the items being made from the substance. Retailers seem to be conforming to consumer preference for cotton, due to the relief it provides from heat and humidity. Synthetic and satin were found to be the second and third most popular lingerie materials. However, when it comes to panties, India is following more global trends, with the bikini style the big leader at 41%, in line with the wider preference for bikini-style knickers amongst women. Hipsters were the second most popular style of panties, indicating that sellers are responding to the substantial preference of women for greater comfort, while the thong is preferred by 23% of shoppers.

In terms of shape, regular type of bras formed the majority of the bras available in the market, with 29% density. Full-coverage and T-shirt bras were the next most populous bra types, with 23% and 22% density respectively. Less traditional cuts, like Balconette, Racer-back, Backless and Maternity, were identified as highly niche styles with just 1%, 1%, 0.5% and 0.5% density respectively.

A sparkle in one eye – and on the other’s finger?

Meanwhile, accessory items come out as having the highest ticket item per unit, on average, at 4338 rupees (Rs) – and this is also the category that tends to offer the highest discount, too, at Rs 1702.

What are people buying here, in specific product types? The answer’s clear – jewellery at 58% of the entire market. Jewellery is also the highest average selling price (Rs 6552) per item, with, again, the highest average discount (Rs 2547). Watches come in second, followed by bags/handbags, with average prices of Rs 2891 and 1587 respectively.

These are just a few of the fascinating results our software has pulled out of real-time, everyday Indians’ shopping patterns. What we can conclude out of all this is that technology driven omni-channel retailing is the future for the country. Retailers who see digital as an integral part of their business will thrive in fashion, while ‘big data analytics’ clearly has the power to integrate brick and mortar with digital.

Through retail analytics such as we’ve shared today, harnessing Point Of Sale data, as well as catalog and pricing movement data from across marketplaces, will be the key to making sure the Indian retailer can keep one step ahead of even the most dramatic change in this fast-moving sector.

All the above comments are based on unique research conducted by our team at Intelligence Node which delved into over 12,000 brands’ sales activity, via nearly 2m SKUs.

The full White Paper that codifies all the insights derived, ‘Indian Fashion 2016: Decoding The Fashion Landscape With Data,’ is available for free download here .