No longer merely a refuge for the old and retired, this city today has over a dozen retail outlets of leading designers and brands. From Ritu Kumar to FabIndia to Tommy Hilfiger, everyone is excited about the 'Punjabi' market.
With the IT, education and tourism sectors opening up new vistas, designers are looking at the tremendous buyer potential in the region. So much so that they usually test the waters in Chandigarh and then move on to other cities in Punjab like Amritsar and Ludhiana.
The trend was pioneered by leading designer Ritu Kumar in October 2001 whose store by the same name has recorded growing sales ever since.
"People in Chandigarh have good taste and demand variety," says Bhupinder Kala, store in-charge at Ritu Kumar's.
While the Ritu Kumar chain deals in formals, ethnic and traditional wear for women, her other brand, Label, sell Indo-Western and Western outfits.
Owing to its success in Chandigarh, Ritu Kumar has opened outlets in Ludhiana and Amritsar as well.
The age group that the designers and lifestyle brands are targeting in this city of a million-plus people is 24-40 and the product prices can range from Rs 1,500 to Rs 200,000.
"Punjab has a lot of economic potential and hence the buying capacity. Our brand has been doing quite well because people here love to dress up heavily for special occasions," adds Kala.
Indian textile and home furnishing brand FabIndia started operations in the city two years ago. It now has stores in adjoining Panchkula, Ludhiana and Amritsar.
International readymade garments and accessories designer Tommy Hilfiger set up shop in the Sector 17 area in Chandigarh last year. Leather products chain Hidesign too has a presence.
Clothing and accessories brand Micky Chhabra came to town in 2005 with two outlets - in Sector 10 and Sector 17. Catering to what many call the Punjabi desire to flaunt everything, it claims that each of its products is an exclusive piece.
"The economy in Chandigarh is on a high. It is also a gateway to northern India. Tourists from across the country too stay in Chandigarh when in the region. So the chances of reaching a larger number of prospective consumers increase," explains Bhupinder Singh Chhabra, who owns the stores in Chandigarh.
Sales for Chhabra have doubled since last year. Then there is Samsaara at Taj Hotel, a one-stop shop stocking over 20 designers' collections. Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, JJ Valaya and Shobhaa De are a few names whose labels can be seen there.
The store has collections of designer garments, footwear and accessories. Seasonal sales have grown by 15-20 per cent this year.
Divya Kapoor, the owner of Samsaara, says, "Being well-travelled, the city's people are well-versed with styles that are in vogue. They now have the potential to invest and indulge. The designers are satisfied with the response."
She describes the clientele as fashion-oriented but not experimental. Since designer wear comes at a price, the regulars are the elite and professionals. However, handbags and accessories are popular with college students.
"Earlier the Punjabi customers used to go to Delhi and Mumbai for designer outfits. Now it is all available closer home," avers Kapoor.
A recent addition at Taj Hotel is a Satya Paul store.