A saturated industry that is today boasting of about US $ 5,77,415 million in revenue with about 3,401 million expected consumers by 2023, retailers and brands currently need to elevate their game, especially to address the high demand that has increased owing to better product accessibility for the shoppers who are well aware of the current trends. Retail has certainly proved to be the market to be in, especially for a sourcing hub like India, but to stand out of the crowd, the key still lies in the conversion of ongoing and upcoming trends into real time product offerings for these retailers and brands. The ball game is all about differentiating between tapping on predicted trends for the future and incorporating a suddenly commercialised trend in the existing product cycle. This is where the gradually popularising concept of opportunity buying comes in.
The biggest instance of opportunity buying has been the sudden explosion of animal prints right from high fashion and street brands to value retailers as well. As the runways revisited the animal patterns with Burberry, Gucci, Versace, Off-White, etc., putting their own version forward, the trickle down of the trend to ready-to-wear shelves was a hasty, yet extremely successful affair that extended to footwear and accessories brands as well.
Industry stakeholders – right from the trend spotters, such as designers and buyers to the people who actually accomplish smooth transition of the hot trend to the production cycles and the sourcing specialists – talk about how this trend is rapidly growing in the retail space, with the aid of the manufacturers’ quick production cycles, and how it will elevate the current market in India.
A Multi-Faceted Opportunity
Industry expert Vipul Mathur defines Opportunity Buying as an imminent need as it will help retailers increase the sales of their full-price offering in a market that is now thriving buying cycles that are usually dictated by discounts.
“Profitability gets deeply compromised through the discount period, and to make the full-price offering attractive, brands need to showcase trends hot off the market,” avers Vipul, who further decodes the five ways opportunity buying can be practised.
He further adds, “From a merchandising point of view, it is very advantageous. Firstly, one gets the trend at the right time. Nowadays, the trend predicted for next year gets cracked for the existing one, and then it depends on the brands as to how they interpret it. Pushing the demand on to the customer, by pairing complementary items with the main offering like shirt with suit sets, socks with footwear, etc., is another way. The next aspect revolves around the ‘wardrobe fillers’, the garments that the wearer wants rather than needs. These trends revolve around a product category that suddenly gains traction. A new collection comes up and everyone wants a piece of it.”
Vipul then elucidates upon the subscription and conditional needs stating, “Another facet takes into account the subscription models, where extensive data analytics tools give an insight about the shopping pattern of the wearer, and thus, the brand can simply increase sales through the potential of a buying pattern or habit. Finally, I think variable sizes also create a sudden demand in the market, where standardised sizes don’t make sense. This is where small details such as cropped hems for shorter men, wide collars for longer necks, more darts to fit a leaner physique come into play. All these facets of opportunity buying can be practised efficiently by a thorough understanding of the trend’s presence in the market, along with the changing consumer demographics and needs.”
Wicrant Gambhir, Head Apparel Sourcing, Page Industries Ltd. – Jockey India shares similar perception, “Sourcing merchandise to meet any sudden market demand, converting stock lot fabric into merchandise to act as a filler, buying ready merchandise that fits the existing product portfolio to fill any which may have a missing trend element, formulate Opportunity Buying. Such styles are always part of the collection and add value in a short term. After a couple of seasons drop, such initiatives become part of the programmed buy.”
Tapping the Hot Trends Into Current Cycles
Abdon Lepcha, Creative Director, FILA India believes that a new inspiration or trend can present itself through multifarious ways, “These trends can be mapped from culture and counter culture that surround us through music, movies, sports, social media or even the street and everyday lifestyle. These are not forecasted trends but something that take shape in a very organic manner from the brewing social, economic and political scenarios, etc. Take for example the Calabasas streetstyle trend, which is not the old-school anglosaxon preppy style of the rich and famous, but styles where young girls don exclusive tracks, parkas and sneakers, where basically street meets luxe. It was an off-beat trend that came into existence by the interpretation of rapstars and social media influencers living in Calabasas. Now this has been adopted by the mainstream retail as sports-luxe fashion.”
FILA will be introducing FILA TECH Sandals in October, a product that is a clear instance of opportunity buying, as described by Abdon, “Me and my colleague Subodh Pathak (Product Director), noticed during an international business trip that the open footwear (sandals & slippers) worn by people are a bit thicker than the usual. It was uncommon, but we felt it is something that we could capitalise on. With this hunch, our in-house India design team designed and developed a range of chunky sandals for the Indian market understanding the consumers, the climate conditions and the lifestyle.”
The sportswear brand translated the wide-strap trend to suit the FILA touch of sportiness, with playful colours and a combination of fashion and utility with the FILA TECH Sandal. “Having seen the success of FILA Disruptor Sneakers, we took inspiration for the sole using the saw-tooth pattern,” shares Abdon. The process of inclusion of the product in their product cycles was crucial and Abdon gives the credit to their brand ethos for its success, adding, “We needed a quick turnaround of the product to hit the market as early as possible but without compromising on quality and technology. The product development team took the challenge and came up with fascinating sandals which will get dropped across all FILA channels and stores. We as a brand understand the dynamics of the ever-changing trends and the ever-demanding market needs; hence these kind of projects go into the top priority bucket as the life expectancy of the trend is quite unpredictable.”
Wicrant is of the view that these trends are mostly global or runway-oriented, which is why translating them to suit the Indian consumer groups becomes crucial. “We have to tend to the Indian consumer, so a few things have to be perfected; fabrics have been changed to more cotton/natural fibres to suit the tropical climate here; sometimes Indian design elements have been added in the fabric/garment design to make it more India-centric; colours have been adapted to suit the weather here, etc. Artwork and embellishments can further be mixed to create a new style.”
E-commerce is a format that enjoys flexible inventory, as the trend to be included in the current cycle can be tested for viability in the long run through a diverse network of data analysis tools clubbed with the expansive visibility of online shopping portals. E-commerce bigwigs such as Ajio are already harnessing the advantages of opportunity buying.
Divya Joshi, Design Manager of Women’s Western Wear segment, Ajio briefs about the market analysis and the rate at which this trend is picking up. She states, “We have to make our bets based on the study of the market, trends and our brand handwriting clientele etc. We have a shorter lead time cycle, which brings in new trends every month so that being in online, we can be a step ahead in tapping them. We sell these products under the Label ‘AJIO GOLD’, and the consumer response to these products is extremely positive.”
A Gamble for the Indian Market
This trend can only be translated with the synergy between the manufacturer and the retailer, as Vipul says that the manufacturer holds a major importance in this. As unplanned orders require less time, and more resources, hence, the manufacturer has to be equipped aptly to shorten the design to warehouse timeline; besides, machinery, labour and technologies play a major role. Abdon also mentions that this is a risky business, as one of the main challenges is the fact that this is something new, never done before and there is no data to back it up. Yet, seeing the retail expertise that India is slowly gaining, the industry stakeholders feel that Indian retail is the perfect ground for the trend.
According to Wicrant, “We are a big manufacturing base for fabrics, there are scores of garment manufacturers with varying scales and scopes; all sorts of artwork skills and techniques are available, people skills are also high to address such needs,” while Vipul adds to the same, “The domestic market is ripe for this buying, as retailers can easily imbibe trends faster, and this is ensured by India’s manufacturing expertise and scope of retail complementing each other.”
Abdon further concludes, “India is strong in production; the question is how flexible are you as a brand. On one side, there are the age-old formulas and rules that have been followed which have given growth and success, and on the other hand, it is about how fast-paced the fashion market is today. One has to be constantly ‘in-trend’ and be able to adapt, change and create.” This simply summarises the dynamic retail space in the country and how fast it is changing to suit the consumer who is more adept to the shifting fashion trends.