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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

What shall I wear?

Madhusheel Larora, Hindustan Times   October 27, 2013
First Published: 10:32 IST(27/10/2013) | Last Updated: 18:14 IST(27/10/2013)

Nothing perhaps agonises people more than what to put on. The textile and garment industry is an ever-open field for innovation in fabric, pairing and design and offers solutions to people wanting to dress-up.

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Tricity residents are believed to be more fashion conscious than most in the region. However, if the trade is to be believed, sales have been stagnant for some time, especially in the lower segment of the price range, as inflation bites. The $110 billion (Rs 6 lakh crore) nation-wide industry is a seasonal one, more so in the north as seasons are far starker here.

With manufacturing concentrated primarily in Ludhiana and Panipat, pushing your product through and catering to tastes in four states and more is a challenge, claim retailers.

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Retail trade margins are around 25-30%, which reduce to less than 15% during sale time, a twice a year phenomenon peculiar to the industry, as the leftover stock has to be disposed of before trends and style change.

The tricity gets most of its stock from the south and the west, conditions for manufacturing being more favourable.

A big boost to the trade comes during the wedding season, about to begin for the season, when activities in the finery space see a real spurt. People can sometimes go to extremes, but Chandigarh residents usually prefer Ludhiana to buy their wedding dresses, though certain new designers and brands have entered the space in recent times and the competition is hotting up in the segment here too. With the all-at-one-go Punjabi spirit, it is not uncommon to hear of the bride sporting a dress worth 50,000.

The next five months are seasonally and relatively good turnover months for retailers. The industry actually creates jobs and is an employment-intensive industry as the mechanisation-level of the Indian industry remains low by international standards.

When people buy clothes, they are actually stimulating the economy much more in much shorter time than when they make other purchases.

This is because we still have weavers in Kanchipuram supplying to distributors and the ilk in the north, and these pieces are lapped up. Even as tricity residents have an evolved taste and you rarely see anyone dressed shabbily these days, except the low-waist jeantotting youngsters, I believe there is an obsession with copying what goes on screen in our films and serials.

People fail to customise their clothes to their bodies and sometimes can buy on impulse, something that they know they will never wear. This sort of purchase is good for the business in the short-term, but to sustain you need a demand for a better product so that better-designed templates for clothes are transmitted through the value chain to the manufacturer.

It is also instructive to know that though the business is a long-term investment for a branded maker (of whatever scales) with linkages to be established across all sectors, there have been failures like Koutons, a company that did not invest in quality.

A segment that is doing relatively well in the city is boutique tailoring.

If I can be presumptuous enough to advice, please buy half as many pieces you think you need and be willing to spend double your estimate. You will rarely go wrong.

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