As footfalls ebb, fashion retailers invent unique models

As fashion retailers grapple with the challenge of low sales, industry watchers have now pinned their hopes on the festive seasonAs fashion retailers grapple with the challenge of low sales, industry watchers have now pinned their hopes on the festive season

The Covid-19 pandemic has made fashion retail brands look at alternative ways to reach consumers, who remain restricted to their homes. Retailers such as Levi’s, Metro Shoes, Fab Alley, etc. have rolled out initiatives such as ‘home visits’ and ‘stores on wheel’ to combat low footfalls in stores.

According to Anurag Mathur, partner and leader, retail and consumer, PwC India, the footfalls at most retail stores have remained below 50% in comparison to the pre-Covid levels.

“While online sales are recovering at 75% of the pre-Covid levels, offline has taken a beating and the walk-ins are 90% lower than pre-Covid period,” says Tanvi Malik, co-founder, FabAlley and Indya. The brand operates 400 shop-in-shops of which 260 are open, and 31 exclusive brand outlets (EBOs) of which 22 are operational, currently. The constantly changing lockdown rules and closure of shops during the weekends have also impacted offline retail.

In order to carry on distribution, Levi’s has introduced the ‘stores on wheel’ concept in Delhi and Gurugram, with plans to scale it up in other cities soon. “We have tops, shorts and lightweight comfortable denim-led ‘work from home’ collections for this mobile store concept,” says Sanjeev Mohanty, MD, South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, Levi Strauss & Co. As per this, Levi’s vans are reaching housing societies where consumers can try out garments at their homes and for alterations, the team on the ground takes measurements. The final product, after being modified at the nearest store, is dropped back to the customer. Footwear brand Bata India, too, is setting up mobile shops at apartment complexes.

FabAlley, has introduced its ‘Indya by Appointment’ service for its ethnic wear brand, wherein the company shares its catalogue with customers through WhatsApp and then sends the selected products to their homes. Footwear retailer Metro Brands, too, has adopted a similar model.

Metro Brands, which currently, has 75% of its shops open in the country, is reaching out to its loyal customer base through WhatsApp. The retailer has 550 stores in the country and houses brands like Metro Shoes, Mochi Shoes, Walkaway, etc.

“This is becoming an additional source of revenue for us and we are now investing in automating the process,” says Alisha Malik, VP, marketing and e-commerce, Metro Brands. The company has so far visited 2,000 homes within a month of this initiative’s launch, while FabAlley is doing about seven-eight visits per week.

However, according to Mathur of PwC, while these new models are worth attempting, they won’t make up for the loss of footfalls for retail brands.

“These alternative methods only address part of the challenge which is the inability of consumers to venture out of their homes. However, a large part of the issue remains the absence of occasions for consumers to buy fashion products,” he adds.

These new channels also present a new set of challenges for retailers. Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and leader, consumer products and retail, EY India, says since retailers can only send a small assortment to the customer’s home or to their mobile stores, they need to choose the assortment well. This is so that customers find the products of their choice and the conversions through these models is high.

Besides inventory, managing costs could be another problem for these players as they could be incurring higher expenses by sending employees to the customer’s home, which would not necessarily translate to sales.

“It will only work if there is a lot of demand in an area and the companies start generating volumes so that the cost of delivery is shared. Otherwise, it will be an expensive proposition,” Mishra adds.

As fashion retailers grapple with the challenge of low sales, industry watchers have now pinned their hopes on the festive season to bring back the demand for fashion products in the country. Most fashion retailers are looking at 30-50% loss in revenues in FY21 due to the pandemic, experts say.

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