Here’s a treasure hunt-like exercise for consumers with children between the ages of four and 12. Actually, we can further narrow down the participants to parents with daughters that age.
You are now entrusted with the task of going and buying a pair of regular jeans for your child. Here are some clues. The pair should not be skin-tight or made-to-fade or torn. And please do not buy one which has ugly pink flowers or patterns embroidered on it. Those with fake crystals stuck on the back pocket are also a strict no-no.
Want more hints? Okay, check out all the major retail chains that boast of large kids wear collections. Go rummage the children’s section of Shopper’s Stop or Lifestyle. Or any other local kids wear brand, may be Catmoss or Lilliput.
If you follow the instructions faithfully, chances are that you will come back empty-handed. You will get all but a pair of ordinary jeans which has a comfortably smart loose-fit and which does not bear a motif of some kind. What you will find in abundance, however, is skin-tight drain-pipe kind of pants that would require children to holler for help to get in and out of them.
Last Sunday, as I went shopping for clothes for a nine year old, more than one salesman told me that no loose-fit jeans are available for girls. “This is the latest fashion. If you want it slightly loose, you can buy two sizes bigger,” offered one helpfully. The humour, if any, was lost on me, after having been through a series of stores and their trial rooms trying to put the child into such clothing.
Ever since the episode last weekend, the irksome question only gets bigger: Is it really so difficult to design and manufacture, simple, smart and comfortable casual wear for children? Why do ready-made clothes for children have to emulate adult fashion? So if you reject the tight-fits, you will have to make do with the ones that hang very low on the waist. Why just a couple of years ago, clingy backless gowns and off-shoulder dresses were flying off the shelves for girls in age group mentioned above. Even now, try looking for a knee-length skirt at any branded outlet. You will have to give up. Only short skirts are available.
While it may not be fair to blame the large-format modern retailers as they are mostly aggregators of multiple brands, some of them have launched their own private labels that follow the market trends.
Evidence on ground points to the fact that I may be a minority as a consumer of children’s clothing complaining about what’s on sale. The segment is booming having touched a market size of Rs 22,000 crore including clothing and footwear for kids. Of this the share of branded products is between 12% and 15%. The category is growing at roughly 18-20% a year, according to estimates by retail consultancy Technopak Advisors.
The opportunity has also attracted a host of foreign brands into the country. Tommy Hilfiger, Puma, Allen Solly and Reebok are already here. Reebok has launched separate Reebok Junior stores. Even Tommy Hilfiger is said to have opened stand-alone children’s wear stores in Delhi and Chandigarh. Hilfiger is targeting the two- to 14-year-olds.
Branded children’s wear does not come cheap. But then parents are spending more on their kids in the urban markets for several reasons. For a start, the number of children per household is lower. Besides, in double income houses, the mother tends to spend more on children—usually on expensive or premium products.
However, Technopak’s senior vice-president Saloni Nangia says that today’s urban consumers in 20s and 30s are more brand conscious than the earlier generation. “They would apply the same principle when shopping for their children,” he says.
Clearly, the segment is doing well and both branded and unbranded products are selling. However, the challenge for the companies is to appoint designers who can create suitable clothing for children. Of course, most companies do engage qualified designers for the job. But it would greatly help if they start designing clothes keeping the age of the consumer in mind rather than the fashion trends.
And finally, before we declare the treasure hunt closed, please go and look for a T-shirt or a top without embossed prints in front that comes with a warning “Do not iron on the print.”
Shuchi Bansal is marketing and media editor with Mint. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org