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The Women’s Denim Market: An Overview & Its Future

Today, denim is among the fastest growing categories in women’s casual apparel segment in India. Various factors have contributed to its growth which can be defined with huge amounts of latest innovations in styling, newer technologies, latest trends and opening up of new territories driving the future growth in the market…

A fabric introduced in 1986 in India has distinguished itself as ‘denim’ and evolved as a leading segment in the country’s apparel market. And although trends changed in the industry, this evergreen fashion icon for all seasons has sustained and fascinated consumers with new innovations and latest designs over the past few decades. This has led the denim category to become one of the most promising ones in the entire Indian apparel market.

Key Growth Trends
The market size of the denim segment within the Indian apparel market was estimated at `23,076 crore in 2017 and is projected to grow at a robust CAGR of 12.7 percent to reach `41,947 crore by 2022 and `76,258 crore by 2027. Some of the factors that have contributed to its strong growth include:

  • A Strong Domestic Focus: Most denim manufacturers in India focus on the domestic market because of its value realization which is higher than that of exports.
  • New Denim Fabric Companies: The recent entry of new denim fabric manufacturers is expected to make the market more price competitive in the coming years.
  • Cotton Rules: Cotton remains the fiber of choice in denim apparel. In blended denim fabrics, polyester is being used as the weft thread.
  • Stretch Denim & Its Growth: Stretch denim still generates higher demand and is registering a fast growth pace due to its comfort and fit characteristics.
  • Colour Burst: Denim is no more restricted to blues as the Indian youth is accepting denim in a burst of different colours including green, red, yellow, etc.

Spotlight: The Branded Women’s Denim Segment in India
Denim is a category originally developed and catered to working men owing to its comfort. But today the product has grown across geographies, gender and age groups due to its western influence and access to global trends. The credit also goes to the rise in disposable income and exposure of women to employment. For a majority of Indian women, denim is not just casual wear – it is more a fashion statement. The penetration of western
fashion and western lifestyle has majorly accelerated the casualisation of clothing across the country.

Today, denim is among the fastest growing categories in women’s casual apparel segment in India. Various factors have contributed to its growth which can be defined with huge amount of latest innovations in styling, newer technologies, latest trends and opening up of new territories driving the future growth in the market. Over the last decade, women’s denim as a category has penetrated deep in the metros and mini metros because of the growing popularity especially among younger generation. Today, denim is not just a fashion statement but an essential staple in their wardrobes for scores of women across India.

Women who are not at ease with western wear have taken to wearing jeans with ethnic kurtis. This has further fueled the demand of women’s denim in smaller towns and cities.

The Indo-western influx has even given this category a further boost as women who are not at ease with western wear have taken to wearing jeans with ethnic kurtis. This has further fueled the demand of women’s denim in smaller towns and cities.

Denim is a high growth casual wear category for its versatility, fashion and comfort, with vast choices available in fabrics, finishes, looks, fits, colours and functionality. Despite having a smaller share in the overall denim market, women’s denim segment in India is expected to grow at 17 percent year-on-year, offering a great opportunity to capitalise in the market for players.

The Big Pie: Unbranded Women’s Denim Segment

Major dominance is held by unorganised players in the women’s denim segment in India, who hold roughly a 60 percent share of the market. The other 40 percent is served by organised players. A huge chunk of denim consumption in the Tier II and III cities is also accounted for by unbranded players in this category. However, most unbranded players operate on the lower price segment of the market where awareness of fabric quality, finishing and washes, design and fit are relatively low.

The emergence of semi-urban clusters, areas with a lower number of farming communities, across the country has opened up a plethora of opportunities for regional brands and retailers. A typical denim consumer of the semi-urban cluster demonstrates a blend of the characteristics of urban and rural consumers. An urban consumer carries awareness of brand and its product quality whereas for a rural consumer, pricing and affordability plays a crucial role in her purchase decision. The regional brand focuses more on catering to the typical requirements of the semi-urban consumers. However, the presence of a plethora of unbranded players in such markets makes it difficult for a national level brand to enter this territory.

The Branded Segment & Its Future

Branded women’s denim is just not restricted to urban areas. Brands are gaining huge acceptance in rural areas with the growth in aspirational consumers seeking better quality and brand image. And with brands and tags gaining importance, market penetration is bound to increase.

The rise in disposable income in semi-urban and rural areas is expected to uplift the demand in this category making it extremely acceptable towards premium quality products.

In the women’s western wear segment, jeans have lost a significant amount of retail floor space to other product categories like dresses and athletic pants.

Aside from this, the concepts of e-marketplace and e-commerce have completely revolutionised the Indian fashion industry, including the women’s denim segment. Being Omnichannel is a new trend in the global market and in India too, this shopping channel brings a lot of convenience to consumers who can browse through various brands and buy their preferred brand with a click of a button. E-commerce has boosted the sale of denims, right from its special variants of dresses to denim casual wear. The online mode has also emerged as a preferred distribution channel for denim vendors. The channel enables the vendors to provide customized denim products as per the customer’s requirements including catering to their choices of size and colour.

Challenges That Must Align With The Future

Though the denim category is among the most promising categories in apparel market, it faces its own set of issues and challenges. India at present lacks behind ability of product development and innovation with denims compared to other countries. Another issue faced by this industry is the demand-supply gap. With the growth in demand, the supplies have grown relatively higher leading to an oversupply issue. This has caused profitability issues and increased intense competition in the market.

In the women’s western wear segment, jeans have lost a significant amount of retail floor space to other product categories like dresses and athletic pants. The popularity of women’s dresses has increased tremendously in the last five years, while athletic wear’s presence at retail has grown due to its multifunctional aspect with both men and women. More than 9 out of 10 consumers report that they wear athletic apparel for activities other
than exercise. Retailers across various channels have responded to consumer demand by adding more fashionable and functional athletic clothing to their product lines, thereby reducing available retail floor space for jeans.

The competition between women’s denim and other categories is even more intensified by shoppers being disappointed about the quality changes in fabric and fiber content. Almost 3 out of 4 shoppers even convey dissatisfaction with the increase in product pricing with denims. In turn, the branded players have to charge a higher price to offer quality products to its customer.

Moving ahead there is a need to develop a larger portfolio of denim garments and accessories, including shorts, shirts, bags, dresses, accessories among others. At present the market is skewed towards denim jeans. There is a scope of improvement through fashion-led processes and finishes with a key to innovation. Establishment of high quality processing and washing units which a knack of working on innovation could help to improve the quality of finishes and colours pallets in turn thus attracting more consumers to buy denim.

With globalisation reaching every corner of India, the Millennials of India’s smaller cities are equally tuned into western apparel and accessory trends and are no longer willing to be constrained to functional accessories and gold jewellery.

India still has a lot of untapped potential with the women’s denim category. The main drivers for its growth are the millennials, movement of women towards casual and comfortable dressing, growth in disposable incomes with women joining the work force, organized retail gaining momentum with brands penetrating into smaller towns and cities.

Leading names in denim business are increasing their focus on offering products with innovative fabrics. Companies in denim jeans market are focusing on offering denim jeans products that are embedded with high-quality polyester. Attributed to key features such as resistance to fire and abrasion, the sales of the denim jeans products will continue to increase. These factors are expected to impact growth of the denim jeans market. A lot of brands which earlier were not involved in jeans making have also added them in their portfolio of offerings.

Changing perception about executive wear at the work place will continue to impact the growth of women denim market in India. The use of newer technology beyond the regular stretches has innovated the denim product portfolio to crossover from just being a casual wear to new avatar of active wear, and even to athleisure and work wear.

Development of a consumer centric denim value chain will create further avenues to unleash the great potential inherent in India’s denim market. However, there is a dire need to start an industry-wide initiative to decode the mind-set of Indian consumers and their perception and receptivity of denim. The increasing awareness of sustainable fashion also provides opportunity to promote denims as a product made out of natural cotton fiber which is more eco-friendly than synthetics.

In conclusion, the amalgamation of science and technology with denims has created a space for smart clothing which links strongly with the future of the Indian denim industry. The denim industry’s future lies with working on its ‘Product Intelligence’. The industry needs to work on a two-pronged strategy which, on one hand, addresses the needs of women consumers and encourages them to consume more of denim and on the other hand, ensures improvement of the existing gaps in the supply chain. This will serve to make India’s denim market more dynamic and consumer centric with better opportunities and scope for all elements in the eco-system.

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