Indian weddings are getting monumental with each passing year, and keeping in tandem is the retail market of women’s wedding wear in India. The article highlights how Indian retailers gear up for the year’s most anticipated season and explore the contemporary fashion trends in women’s wedding wear.
The familiar “big fat Indian wedding” is definitely the going cliche, and it has spawned an entire industry today. Till a few decades back, lavish weddings with huge budgets were the prerogative of the beau monde. But today, with democratisation of fashion and aspirations backed by demand, we see the emergence of the new Maharajas, best in regal action at weddings. Also, indulging in opulence has today, become a perceived compulsion. It not only reflects the love of parents for their soon-to-be-wed children but has also become a status symbol for families.
It is actually a high growth industry running on an aspirational engine that shows no signs of revving down or being affected by any market force. Of this mammoth industry, the apparel retail, especially women’s, and the jewellery retail industry take centerstage, as both are the kernels of an quintessential Indian wedding.
THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE WEDDING SEASON
For a women’s wear retailer, the wedding season is important; it indeed adds a lot to the business. Deepak R Ajwani, Proprietor, Deep Garments (Leebas), shares, “The wedding season adds more value to the women’s fashion retailer and I can say with my experience that it adds to an approximate 30 to 40 percent increase in sales.” His brand Leebas is today present across 150-200 doors pan India and has one flagship store. Anshul Paul, Director, Nargis, shares even more glowing numbers when he explains, “Wedding season is considered to be the most happening season of all the seasons as our sales shoot up due to increased purchases of different varieties of dresses, specially lehengas. This begins post September and also becomes important for the festivities it celebrates. For us, once this season starts, our sales automatically rise and contribute to 70 to 80 percent of annual total.”
There are some speciality retailers like Neeru’s who are established destinations and generate consistent sales throughout the year. And, even they report buoyancy. Harish Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, Neeru’s, says, “Wedding season is definitely one of our favourite seasons. It is a time when everyone wants to shop. Further, online shopping is now becoming very lucrative because of the various deals, discounts, accessibility and payment options that make the process very convenient. The wedding season contributes almost 60 percent to the annual sales.” Kumar further says, “Year on year, during these seasons, we see the demand going up by as much as 40 percent.” Clearly, it is good and it is getting even better.
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PRODUCTS AND CATEGORIES THAT DRIVE WEDDING SEASON SALES
Indian weddings, for the most part, have a tendency to proceed for quite a few days and this means new attire for each moment, often multiple in a day. The various dresses, their hues, shades, designs, etc. symbolise the significance of each part of the marriage. So the wedding season obviously calls for a set of dresses, many with heavy design work.And considering the high consumer expectation, it is a huge challenge too, as a retailer needs to be really into the game of what is in and what’s the latest trend. Kumar shares, “Sarees, silk sarees, lehengas, anarkalis and ghagras are in high demand during this time. Our exclusive dress collections, such as the gowns, Banarasi lehengas are high in demand due to their unique designer work. In kids wear, beautiful Indo-western dresses for girls, definitely sees a rise in demand in this season. However, people also continue to buy many kurtis, tunics and dresses at the same time for everyday use.”
Paul, whose brand Nargis is present in Delhi and Ghaziabad, explained that the main collection that helps to push the season sales apart from bridal wear is the lehenga collection. He asserts, “There are other categories which drive sales like sarees, lehenga sarees, Indo-western dresses and drape sarees, to name a few. People tend to purchase all this collection in bulk for different occasions like- milni, dwar poojan, muh dikhai, etc.” Nargis stores successfully rake up sales of `35,000 per sq.ft. per month and it does a healthy turnover of about `7-8 crores with a sharp team of 25.
The wedding season is also the time when India splurges on apparel gifting. Everyone loves to wear clothes and what better if gifted by your loved ones. There are many items that can be taken as a gifting option for women. For example, one can gift kurtis, semi-stitched suits, designer sarees, full stitched suits which include anarkali suits, dhoti salwar suits, patiala salwar suits, palazzo salwar suits, parallel salwar suits and many more.
Most consumers prefer giving presents that are well used by the receiver. Kumar explains the key change in buying gifts as he says, “People are now buying various kinds of gowns and lighter Indo-western dresses as gifts. As fashion trends change, our gift voucher has also become very popular because of the flexibility they provide to the customer to choose their own gifts with maximum time limit.”
CHANGES IN CONSUMERS’ BUYING HABITS
With global trends entering the indigenous market, Indian weddings are donning a more corporate look and feel, moving away from the traditional themes. Several unique and interesting consumer trends are being observed in the industry.
Modernisation of ancient or retro drapes, minimalist silhouettes, bold colours. People have become more and more fashion inclined, accepting lot of experimentation and drama. Consumers spend a lot of time cross comparing. Mix-and-match is the popular trend. Earlier, wedding collections used to have limited colours like green, beige, maroon, grey, etc. Today, the wedding collection is available in all possible colours. “Apart from the patterns, designs and stitching, embroidery work used to be mellow. Now-a-days, consumers demand loud and gaudy collections. But slowly, people are coming back to the mellow designs,” apprised Ajwani.
Every woman desires to wear something ethnic with a touch of innovation to look traditional as well as trendy at the same time. Dresses is one of the most popular and versatile attire that can help one look glamorous and dignified.
Indian fashion has completed an era in fashion trends and seems to be going back to it. Suddenly, the palazzos from the 60s and 70s are back with a bang. Indo-western clothes styled with a unique twist are most preferred. “The new trend is ‘bare-a- bit’ where the dresses are preferred with showing a little skin, especially with off-shoulders and slits. Toned down subtle colours with unique shades are the new rages. Tops and kurtis that can be paired with a variety of clothes, such as skirts, are gaining popularity. Further, heavy Indian apparels with detailed work, hand karigari stay high in demand as much as ever,” says Kumar.
EXPECTATIONS AND THE WAY AHEAD
The country’s new-found love with online shopping has benefitted almost all fashion spaces, including that of the wedding wear. Consumers for whom shopping is no more than a regular chore, find it very convenient to browse through hundreds of product offerings, without the nudging interference of sales staff. In wedding wear, the expectations for the shopping experience are now exceedingly high, not everyone has access to or rather inclination for that intensive shopping experience. Instead of visiting individual shops and spending time and effort in trying out different attire, shoppers are finding it much easier to log on to the internet and buy clothes online from credible shopping stores. Owing to this shift in buying habits, leading wedding wear brands are also foraying into e-commerce retail as a natural progression of their existing business. For existing brick and mortar retailers, it will be necessary to be online and be omni-channel.
Women’s wedding wear will continue to see a high degree of personalisation, and also the consumer willingness to experiment with new attire. Having said this, retailers who are going to spend larger share of revenue in making their backend strong to understand customer convenience, needs, and the current fashion and market trends, will champion the growth story.