While we are still talking about fast fashion and its utility and sustainability in fashion along with a conception that all of it are privy to the adult consumers, kidswear segment has grown by leaps and bounds to form an equitable share of the overall apparel market size in the country. Even as the menswear category continues to dominate the fashion industry, kidswear, which was almost non-existent till a few years ago, is slated for phenomenal growth. According to Technopak, kidswear is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1 per cent whereas menswear and womenswear are expected to grow at relatively lesser growth rate of 7.5 per cent and 7.6 per cent respectively. The millennial culture, the growing awareness among kids about fashion and their active participation in their dressing choices have all led to this change and have unveiled the true potential of the segment. “The last ten years, in particular, have registered robust growth in kidswear mainly because the upper middle-class has grown multifold. Today’s well-informed kids, due to increased penetration of media, have become very demanding. They have increasingly started contributing in purchase decisions. Expenditure on kids clothing is not restricted only to religious festivals or occasions such as birthdays, etc., but has become more frequent. With growing disposable income, exposure to global fashion trends and entrance of foreign brands in the country, the huge middle class of the country has started spending more for their children,” maintains Sharad Venkta, Managing Director & CEO, Toonz Retail.
Growing up in time
Almost 29 percent of the country’s total population comprise of kids in the age group of 0 to 14 years, a fact that has given strength to a number of brands to enter the segment and create ripples in the overall market. Also, the kidswear segment across the country has witnessed seismic changes in the last few years in terms of both product and consumer base. The childrenswear category has moved from the basic functional lifestyle apparel dominated majorly by the unorganised sector to inclination towards branded segment. And the emergence of brand awareness in today’s parents and inclination towards high quality clothing options for their little ones, has further trickled down to the kids as well, who are now an independent buyer group that the retailers are targeting. Kiran Lakhani, Category Manager- Girlswear, Gini & Jony, asserts, “The kidswear market in India has never been as dynamic and challenging as it is right now. Appealing to millennial parents who have grown up in the analog era as well as the digital age, is another ball game. The purchasing behaviour across categories has moved from functional clothing to fashion clothing and now to a more environmentally conscious mindset with sustainable clothing becoming popular, keeping the fashion quotient constant. Along with that, there has been a huge disruption in this segment, by the low priced, value based chains offering dailywear at extremely competitive pricing, which comprises of over 50- 70 percent of any kid’s wardrobe.”
Furthermore, the country has also witnessed a significant influx of international brands as well in the kidswear space, which has further facilitated the market to open up to global fashion trends. “Trends used to come a little late to India before, as it took about a year or so for a trend to reach India, but now, it is completely different with a globalised economy; it simply takes as less as a day or maximum a week. We use the Indian colours, with a Western twist – so our products are a mixture of both,” says Shailesh Lakhani, VP- Boyswear, Gini & Jony. Additionally, private labels, fashion designers and luxury brands too are exploring the kidswear category and are launching a dedicated range for children. According to Statista, the kids’ apparel market is predicted to grow from the estimated value of over Rs.730 billion in 2018 to over Rs.1.6 trillion in 2028 across the country. Notably, kidswear segment accounted for approximately 20 percent of the total apparel market in 2018.
Evolving shopping behaviour
While the propensity for buying what’s best and most trendy is driving the kidswear market enormously, what really describes ‘the best’? The most prominent factor remains the material being used in the garment, which is another reason why today’s parents are more inclined towards branded products – they offer the softest, skin-friendly fabrics which are not harmful for the sensitive skin of kids and are perfect for their children’s active lifestyle, offering durability, practicality and convenience. Fabrics such as cotton-based denims, georgettes, rayon and crepes are among the preferred options and natural materials like cotton and linen are best options for summer collection. Also, organic and eco-friendly apparel are enjoying increasing demand in the segment, especially by the urban parents.
Besides, the shopping trend has evolved over the years from being a parents’ decision to the kids’ choice. “The shopping trend over the years has changed quite a lot. Most of the purchases are now influenced by what the kids like and what appeals to them. The kids nowadays have a lot more exposure and are equipped to make choices for themselves; we see kids coming to the stores with their parents and selecting what they would like to wear. Our target consumer base include all the urban parents who feel that it’s not just the design that matters but also the quality. We have created a product line which is at par with the latest design trends, is of unparalleled quality and most reasonably priced,” avers Avanish Jain, CEO, Beebay Kids.
Fashion influencers are another catalyst affecting the consumers’ buying decision as well as the retailers’ product offering. “Fashion influencers have completely transformed the fashion industry with the customer being very clear about what they want, be it in terms of colours of the season, the fabrics or the silhouettes. They are becoming more experimental and uninhibited in their fashion choices. At Gini and Jony, we always have the consumer at the forefront of our design thinking and approach. We aim to connect with the young minds by being a brand they can relate to and like. Through our product offering, we are constantly thriving to achieve the end goal, where our garments are an extension of the kid’s personality,” asserts Kiran.
Similar to adult fashion market where men’s category owns the bigger market share as compared to women’s category, the kidswear market too is skewed towards boyswear which by itself is US $ 4.3 billion market as against US $ 4.0 billion worth of girlswear market, confirms a report by Technopak. However, with the increase in spending on the girl child, this segment is expected to surpass the boyswear market with a growth rate of 11 per cent over the next decade while the boyswear market will grow at a CAGR of 10 per cent. In adherence to this growth trend, Monika Jain, Director –Design, Beebay Kids, confirms, “For Beebay, we see a larger sale in the girls’ category especially in dresses segment which is the fastest moving. We have a vast product range with almost 150 new styles being launched every season. Our consumers look for variety and we make sure that they are spoilt for choices. For girls, we have products ranging from dresses, woven blouses, graphics and embroidered T-shirts, to dungarees, outerwear and bottoms. Similarly for boys, we have a strong range of printed shirts, T-shirts, outerwear and bottoms.” Meanwhile, the recently launched festive collection by Toonz too focuses majorly on girlswear and comprises of two categories – regular Indian ethnicwear and heavy Indian partywear, offering an extensive range in gowns and dresses. However, for Gini & Jony, boyswear brings in the major share of revenue and the brand prides in its basic offerings with great graphic designs.
Reaching out to the discerning
Besides customer preference and demand, brand visibility goes a long way in contributing to the growth of an industry. The organised kidswear segment has not only got hold of the urban market but has percolated down to the hinterlands of the country as well. The purchasing power of the customers has increased manifold, be it in the metropolitan cities or in the upcoming cities like Agra or Amritsar and brands are opening up to these newer markets while strengthening their presence in the existing ones. Sharad maintains, “We have got an encouraging response from Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns and believe that they are still untapped. In the past few months, we have launched in cities like Kashipur, Roorkee, Dehradun, Ichalkaranji and are targeting 200 stores in the next three years. Last year, we opened nearly 25 stores and we are hoping to double that count.” Gini & Jony’s Kiran agrees as she asserts, “The retail avenues might be better in Tier-2 markets as customers in metros are more aware of the bigger retail brands. The Tier-2 customers are showing interest in investing in clothing now and it promises potential.” Also, a number of brands have shifted their focus towards e-commerce platforms as kids are getting exposed to internet, smartphones and smart TVs from a very young age. According to an annual report released by global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs, the interest of the kids in shopping online has seen a vast jump from 2 percent to 9 percent in 2019, which is more than triple of what the numbers indicated last year. Also, Amazon has claimed that its sales in the kidswear segment grew by almost 80 percent in FY 2017-18 as compared to the previous fiscal, thereby helping brands in the category expand their base in the country.
The intricacies of manufacturing kidswear
Manufacturing in kidswear calls for taking into account a number of safety norms. A careful assessment of the fabric to be used is required; manufacturers use specially treated material, fabrics treated with fire-retardant, eco-friendly fabrics, chemically safe dyes, threads, zippers and other fasteners and decorations which are comfortable for the little ones. Rahul Srivastava, Founder, RNG Apparel which offers woven wear for boys and men, says, “In kidswear, one needs to ensure that there are no sharp edges in any kind of metal that are used in suspenders, buttons or rivets, etc. Also, we use only Azo and lead free dyes for our kidswear range. While we offer garments for both infants and teens, the maximum potential lies in the age group of 2-8 years where the kids grow rapidly and go according to the choice of their parents.” The manufacturing at Toonz and Beebay too follow stringent rules in order to offer a garment which ensures safety, comfort and durability in the long run. Adding to this, Kiran Kumar, General Manager – Industry and Engineering Department, Wear Well India Pvt Ltd., asserts, “We undergo a series of quality checks in order to adhere to the demands of our buyers. Talking about a few of them, we go by the parameters of colour fastness, yarn count and pay attention to everything that has parameters and requisites. Our garments go through checks like waistband elastic check, button pull test, garment wash tests and all of them are checked through a needle detection machine to confirm for any broken needle in the garment and many other such tests. While these stringent checks make our final products perfect, they also act as one of the major challenges since every single criteria has to be met in order to make a sale to the buyer.” For RNG Apparel, the biggest challenge in India remains the sourcing of trims since manufacturers in the country are heavily dependent on China for better variety and quality.
A push by character licensing
Character licensing is another positive push to the already growing kidswear segment in India. For brands and manufacturers, it aids in enhancing the product design and generates interest due to its association with a character. Even as the concept of character licensing in India is not totally in its nascent stage, it is not as widely evolved as it is in the West. The Walt Disney Company is the leading licensor in India and the consumer products business plays a critical role in providing the consumers a chance to bring a piece of the Disney magic home through a wide range of creative and locally appealing merchandise. Retail brands like Reliance Trends and Max Fashions, among others offer merchandise with Disney characters and are at the forefront of their kidswear range. Talking about the scope of character licensing, Anvita Prasad, AVP- Licensing, Green Gold Animation, which is the creator of Chhota Bheem license, says, “Character licensing has very bright future in India across categories, and apparel being the main contributor in licensing business, will always get maximum focus. Today, every kid wants his/ her favourite character on apparel, school bags, stationery etc. Even adults are not shying away using character merchandise. Apparel industry has understood this trend and therefore we are seeing so many online sites, selling character merchandise both for kids and adults.
This demand is not only coming from urban India but also from rural areas due to consumption of content on mobile, growth of organised retail, new character launches and many more.” For a typical licensing deal, a licensor needs to review brand value of the prospective licensee, past record, quality of their products, strength in distribution and manufacturing/ sourcing, etc. Anvita confirms that the minimum tenure for product license is one year even as most of the licenses are taken for 2-3 years in order to launch and establish the range in the market for 5-10 years. Today, the Indian market has opened up to a lot of international as well as regional characters; these character draw kids to the merchandise thereby making them an instant hit. While counterfeit products and piracy pose as a big challenge for the licensors across India, they have means and strategies in place to tackle them in time.
Challenges and road ahead
Kidswear has attracted a number of retailers’ attention in the recent years who have analysed the market and are ruling it with their product category, brand experience, retail presence, etc. However, the key challenge on the way is to ‘understand the nuances of consumer behaviour in kidswear retailing and merits of value pricing”. Even as the category has witnessed a shift from unorganised to corporatised retail, there still is a long way to go. Sharad adds, “The unorganised sector poses a great challenge, especially in Tier-2 and Tier-3 markets as they are available at a cheaper price, compromising on the quality of the products offered. Consumers are price- sensitive and hence it is an industrial challenge to reckon with.” In order to capture this market, the brands in the segment need to focus on quality and value pricing. Also, since occasion-specific clothing is becoming a potential revenue generator, a well-planned approach is what will help the retailers counter the competition being posed by the unorganised segment.