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Big brands want to dress up kids

Though the organised children’s ready-to-wear segment is still small, big brands are very optimistic about its growth, reports Saurabh Turakhia.

business Updated: May 15, 2008 22:23 IST
Saurabh Turakhia

The children’s apparel business, after seeing small but strong homegrown brands such as Gini and Jony and Lilliput making an impact in the organised ready-to-wear segment, is now attracting the attention of big retailers. A reasonably large market dominated by the unorganised sector, the children’s apparel market has now begun to see more focused interest from large organised players.

A Raymond spokesperson says, "The kids’ ready-to-wear market is estimated to be about Rs 7,510 crore, contributing approximately 17 per cent to the Rs 43,000 crore ready-to-wear apparel market. The organised children’s retail market is estimated to be about Rs 700 crore, growing at around 17-18 per cent per annum."

Rahul Mehta, president of the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), estimates that the organised children’s ready-to-wear segment has a 20 per cent share of the overall organised ready-to-wear market. The total ready-to-wear market, including the unorganised players, is worth between Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000 crore.

Nabunkar Gupta, founder CEO of Nobby Brand Architects, says that the segment has always been large. What has happened over the years is the fallout of the economic improvement in India. “With progressing times, after ensuring better eating, basic clothing and shelter, parents ensure that they get the very best for their children in terms of what they eat and wear," he says.

Mehta adds that parents have responded favorably to the branded children’s apparel efforts. “The influence of television has worked positively.” He also points out that as the menswear category gets saturated, extending to the children’s segment may be attractive to a number of organised sector brands.

True. Raymond, which has extended its appeal to the women’s ready-to-wear segment, also launched Zapp! for children in 2006. Spykar recently launched its children’s brand OYO, which stands for “On Your Own”, recently. In fact, says the Raymond spokesperson, the booming middle class is presenting opportunities in the kidswear segment that looks like growing strongly. Brands are therefore rushing in to fill this attractive gap. After a test launch in Ahmedabad, Zapp! Was launched nationally to cater to children between four and 14 years of age.

Spykar, on its part, with its experience in the 'jeans' segment, has carefully positioned OYO as denimwear for young adults. It is a clear attempt at differentiation in a nascent market. Sanjay Vakharia, marketing director, Spykar, explains the positioning: "It's a primary departure from the traditional frills and cartoons approach to clothing and takes the kidswear to a level where 'like mother-like daughter’ and 'like father-like son' dressing as a global trend is recognised and given the opportunity to take concrete shape."

Brand experts agree that sooner or later, all children’s brands will also have to come out and define their specific positioning. "They cannot be all things to everyone for a long time," says Santosh Desai, CEO and managing director of Future Brands. He asserts that right now, a lot of factors are conducive for the growth of the branded children’s ready-to-wear segment – higher disposable incomes with parents, the supporting modern-day retail formats and the need for brands to expand their turfs.

Gupta points out that while brands such as Gini and Joni and Lilliput have catered to the middle class well, the upper class used to address its kids' apparel needs through imported clothes. "It is good that more players are entering the segment as there will be scope for all of them."

Zapp! Has been moving fast to cash in on current opportunities. It has set up over 18 exclusive showrooms across India (38,000 sq feet of retail space) and is set to add six more company-managed showrooms this year. OYO will be starting with 30 exclusive brand outlets across 12-15 cities in the first phase, with an investment of around Rs 15 crore. Vakharia confirms, "Our total turnover last year was Rs 160-odd crore. Next fiscal, we hope to achieve Rs 280 crore. Of this, Rs 22-25 crore will be hopefully coming from OYO."

While more brands are venturing into children’s wear, there’s a lot still to be done. Desai feels Gini and Jony and Lilliput have done more to garner mindshare than the new entrants are doing. Gupta adds that in terms of in-store attraction and experience, the brands have a lot to do. "Kids should want to come to the store again and again; that has clearly not happened. Since a lot of children decide on their own what they want to wear, players will have to tweak their brand communication accordingly, which has largely been aimed at parents."

Retailers such as Big Bazaar and Shoppers Stop are also developing their own private labels in children’s wear. Desai feels that for some time, both retailer brands and manufacturer brands will enjoy the opportunities in the growing market.